A systematic review of job-specific workers' health surveillance activities for fire-fighting, ambulance, police and military personnel

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2011 Dec;84(8):839-57. doi: 10.1007/s00420-011-0614-y. Epub 2011 Feb 12.


Purpose: Some occupations have tasks and activities that require monitoring safety and health aspects of the job; examples of such occupations are emergency services personnel and military personnel. The two objectives of this systematic review were to describe (1) the existing job-specific workers' health surveillance (WHS) activities and (2) the effectiveness of job-specific WHS interventions with respect to work functioning, for selected jobs.

Methods: The search strategy systematically searched the PubMed, PsycINFO and OSH-update databases. The search strategy consisted of several synonyms of the job titles of interest, combined with synonyms for workers' health surveillance. The methodological quality was checked.

Results: At least one study was found for each of the following occupations fire fighters, ambulance personnel, police personnel and military personnel. For the first objective, 24 studies described several job-specific WHS activities aimed at aspects of psychological, 'physical' (energetic, biomechanical and balance), sense-related, environmental exposure or cardiovascular requirements. The seven studies found for the second objective measured different outcomes related to work functioning. The methodological quality of the interventions varied, but with the exception of one study, all scored over 55% of the maximum score. Six studies showed effectiveness on at least some of the defined outcomes. The studies described several job-specific interventions: a trauma resilience training, healthy lifestyle promotion, physical readiness training, respiratory muscle training, endurance and resistance training, a physical exercise programme and comparing vaccines.

Conclusions: Several examples of job-specific WHS activities were found for the four occupations. Compared to studies focusing on physical tasks, a few studies were found that focus on psychological tasks. Effectiveness studies for job-specific WHS interventions were scarce, although their results were promising. We recommend studying job-specific WHS in effectiveness studies.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Responders*
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel*
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Workplace