PLoS One. 2022 Nov 30;17(11):e0278174. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0278174. eCollection 2022.
OBJECTIVE: To explore the effect of personal protective equipment (PPE) fit on functional performance across a range of occupational domains.
BACKGROUND: PPE introduces an ergonomic, human systems integration, and mass burden to the wearer, and these factors are thought to be amplified if PPE is ill-fitting. However, few studies have considered the role of fit (static, dynamic, and cognitive) when evaluating PPE-related performance detriments in occupational settings.
METHOD: A systematic literature review was conducted to identify relevant studies, which were then critically appraised based on methodological quality and collated to compare key findings and present evidence-based recommendations for future research directions across a range of occupational domains.
RESULTS: 16 published studies met the inclusion criteria, 88% of which found that the fit of PPE had a statistically significant effect on occupational performance. Poorly sized PPE resulted in slower or increased reaction time; decreased range of motion or mobility; decreased endurance or tolerance; decreased pulmonary function; and altered muscle activation. Limited research met the inclusion criteria and those that did had risks of bias in methodology quality.
CONCLUSION: Future research evaluating the effect of PPE on performance in occupational settings should aim to recruit a more representative population; consider sex as a covariate; quantify and evaluate PPE fit and performance when integrated with all relevant equipment items; include outcome measures related to all three categories of fit (static, dynamic, cognitive); and assess performance of operationally relevant tasks.