Identification and characterization of the critical physically demanding tasks encountered by correctional officers

Jamnik, Veronica K.; Thomas, Scott G.; Shaw, Jim A.; Gledhill, Norman
February 2010
Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism;Feb2010, Vol. 35 Issue 1, p45
Academic Journal
The purpose of this investigation was to identify the critical tasks encountered by correctional officers (COs) on the job and to conduct a comprehensive assessment and characterization of the physical demands of these tasks. These are the first steps in developing a fitness screening test for COs in compliance with recent legislation. The most important, physically demanding, and frequently occurring tasks were identified using Delphi methodology, focus groups, and questionnaire responses from 190 experienced front-line COs. These tasks were structured into emergency response scenarios for which a physical and physiological characterization was conducted to verify their relative physical demands analysis. Oxygen consumption and the forces exerted by COs were quantified while they were responding and then controlling and restraining inmates. The female COs used less force than the male COs did to control and restrain the same inmates (body control = 46 vs. 60 kg, wrist hold = 32 vs. 49 kg, and arm retraction = 37 vs. 47 kg) and did not exert their maximal strength during their control and restraint activities. The mean oxygen consumption of the female and male COs while performing the on-the-job tasks was similar (39.5 vs. 38.5 mL·kg-1·min-1). We concluded that the essential components of a fitness screening protocol for CO applicants are cell search, expeditious response, body control, arm restraint, inmate relocation, and an assessment of aerobic fitness. The criterion performance standards for completing these tasks in a circuit were set at the job performance level of safe and efficient female COs.


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