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Case Study 1 - functional testing for specialist policing roles

Beyond general duties policing, police officers can fulfil a range of diverse roles. These can include search and rescue, canine handling, water policing, mounted units, counter-terrorism and air control.  Members who work in these specialist roles are exposed to unique physical demands, anything from pulling bodies out of the water, to rock climbing up a cliff face.

Across several years, Human Performance Science has been fortunate to work with a range of specialist policing units on fit for duty projects. The purpose of these projects has been to develop functional fitness testing programs that will help screen applicants when new positions arise.

Following a rigorous scientific process, Human Performance Science has collected a rich set of subjective and objective data as part of a job task analysis, for each and every unit. During this phase, staff at Human Performance Science were lucky to work across numerous operational environments, including oceans, rivers, forests, alpine regions, helicopters, armoured vehicles and training facilities.

Once the outcomes of the job tasks analyses were verified, Human Performance Science could proceed with developing, and subsequently validating, fit for duty assessments for each and every Unit. These assessments were founded on minimal physical demands expected of all operators.

Working with specialist policing units has allowed our staff to see first hand the professionalism and dedication policing organisations display. Their willingness to improve all aspects of health & safety, especially their fit for duty testing, is a mantra all organisations should aspire to. With the right testing programs now in place,  these units can be confident they will attract the right people into the right roles.

 

Case Study 2 - supporting lifesavers through COVID-19

Red and yellow are iconic colours of Australia’s beach culture during Summer months. Lifesavers patrol beaches across Australia, preventing drowning and keeping beach goers safe. Lifesavers are volunteers who give up many days across the patrolling season, in addition to the training and requalification they must undertake.

Like all emergency services, lifesavers face unique physical challenges, particularly in the marine environments. Members are required to lift, carry and drag objects or people on land, whilst being able to perform swimming or board rescues in the water. Training for these roles is necessary regardless of baseline fitness or strength.

However, in 2020 and 2021, many lifesavers had their access to training (especially swimming pools) restricted, with government imposed lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It meant in the months leading into the patrolling season, many lifesavers were at risk of not being able to train properly, and subsequently carry out patrolling duties safely.

Thanks to some forward thinking by Lifesaving Victoria, the governing body for all lifesavers and lifeguards in Victoria, Human Performance Science were engaged to minimise the effects of de-training.  Our trainers were engaged to develop “at-home” training programs that were modelled off lifesaving demands. After studying the unique demands of lifesavers, our staff were able to develop bespoke training programs that members could follow from the comfort of their home. The programs included functional movements and progressions that were aligned with the dominant movements and stressors experienced on the sand and in the water.

Whatsmore, we were able to tailor the programs to specific lifesaving groups, including Bronze Medallion qualified members, Surf Rescue qualified members, Gold Medallion qualified members, Helicopter crew members and junior members. With time, these programs evolved from purely ‘at-home’ training, to ‘on-beach’ training when lifesavers were granted exemptions from lockdowns, yet were still unable to attend gymnasiums or swimming pools.

Human Performance Science were proud to support Life Saving Victoria and the broader lifesaving community. Especially since some of our staff are lifesavers themselves. Helping community volunteers is something that drives our staff. More importantly, it is something that supports volunteers making valuable contributions to our way of life.

Case Study 3 - a  national program to screen volunteers

The State Emergency Services (SES) operate across each Australian state and territory. Combined, there are more than 40,000 volunteers amongst these organizations, filling a range of community and emergency response roles. Volunteers roles are extremely diverse, requiring members to operate in vastly different environments, on a range of different tasks.

Common across all SES volunteer roles is the need for a baseline level of fitness and strength. The tasks personnel undertake are often physically strenuous, repetitive and performed in harsh environmental conditions. Members who are not physically capable of performing certain tasks can compromise their own health & safety, the safety of their colleagues, or the safety of community members.

Over a 5-year period, Human Performance Science have been working alongside all Australian SES jurisdictions to develop physical screening measures that are aligned with the demands of SES tasks. This is referred to as the SES Fit for Task programme. Volunteers will need to perform these screening measures on a recurring basis (such as every one or two years) to demonstrate they have the physical strength and fitness necessary to safely execute SES tasks.

The SES Fit for Tak programme has been successful on a number of fronts. First, it has precipitated strong collaborative efforts between all relevant stakeholders. It has seen coordination between Human Performance Science, all 8 state and territory SES organisations, volunteer associations, as well as the governing bodies that oversee emergency management practices in Australia. Collaborating with, and managing personnel from all these parties has enabled Human Performance Science to expand its reach, and improve its practices on various volunteer skill sets.

Second, this multi-agency approach has produced effective implementation and change management solutions amongst volunteer populations. The key with the Fit for Task programme is that it does not represent a barrier to participation, rather an enabler of identifying injury risk.  The programme is designed on the principle of inclusivity, meaning volunteers are not excluded if they fail to meet the standard of any screening measure, they are simply managed in a way where they are not at high risk of injury amongst certain tasks. 

Human Performance Science is proud to have worked alongside thousands of volunteers who go above and beyond to safeguard their community. We were fortunate to meet an incredibly diverse set of people throughout the research project, and we applaud their passion and dedication to keeping the community safe in times of need. The Fit for Task programme is our contribution to ensure these men and women are functionally fit for their roles, which is beneficial to every volunteer, and ultimately the work they do.