Academic journal article Human Ecology

Building Better Boots and Gear for Firefighters: 3-D Technology Sheds New Light on Hazards of Bulky Garb

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Building Better Boots and Gear for Firefighters: 3-D Technology Sheds New Light on Hazards of Bulky Garb

Article excerpt

The top firefighter injury isn't burns or smoke inhalation, but musculoskeletal damage, such as ankle sprains.

A College of Human Ecology protective clothing expert is trying to change that with a five-year project to make firefighters' movements more natural and comfortable by designing better-fitting protective gear, mainly boots.

Bulky gear is a major cause of firefighters' onsite injuries, said Huiju Park, assistant professor in the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design, the project's principal investigator.

"Boots provide mechanical protection from burns, but they're very uncomfortable. Every step is an effort to move forward," said Park.

With graduate students and undergraduate members of his Functional Aspects of Clothing Design class, Park and his research team are using advanced 3-D motion capture system technology and plantar pressure sensors to assess how protective equipment affects firefighters as they walk and climb stairs in a simulated work environment. The 3-D imaging--the same technology used to create special effects in films and video games--records subtle changes in balance, foot comfort, and joint movement. Park aims to develop new performance and design guidelines for protective gear as part of a larger study with researchers at the University at Buffalo and Colorado State University.

In such sessions to date, Park has analyzed the range of motion at each joint for male and female firefighters, and measured the pressure applied inside their shoes. …

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