APH 2002, 60, 233-243:

Assessement of work ability in aging fire fighters by means of the Work Ability Index preliminary results.

P. Kiss, M. Walgraeve and M. Vanhoorne

Keywords: ageing, fire fighters, occupational health, older workers, work ability index

Aim: The aim of the study was to assess the work ability of aging fire fighters in a municipal professional fire-fighting department by means of the Work Ability Index (WAI) questionnaire and subsequently to determine the most relevant factors that contribute to a poor work ability among the study group.

Methods: On the occasion of the annual medical examination all professional fire fighters aged 45 years or older were asked to fill in the WAI questionnaire, which was developed by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH), and consisted of 7 items, shown to be relevant for the work ability of aging workers.  A WAI score was calculated according to the instructions of the FIOH.  Age, education, marital status and presence of musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory disease were considered as independed variables.  Kruskall-Wallis test and logistic regression were used in the statistical analysis.

Results: Up to now 236 (83.7%) subjects filled in the questionnaire.  Mean age was 51.5 years (range 45-61; SD 4.1).  Mean WAI was 40.6 (SD 5.4) showing an increasing SD with increasing age.  Age (OR .3), presence of musculoskeletal disease (OR 7.7), cardiovascular disease (OR 3.8) and respiratory disease (OR 4.5) were significantly correlated with a poor work ability.

Conclusion: The WAI questionnaire was easily applicable within daily occupational health practice.  The results indicated an increasing interindividual variability of work ability with advancing age.  Among the variables considered up to now, age and the presence of musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory disease significantly decreased work ability, musculoskeletal disease being the most important influencing factor.