BACKGROUND: Commercial fishing is one of the leading occupational sectors that lead to fatal and non-fatal injuries. Personal flotation devices (PFDs) are life-saving devices essential for commercial fishing work that includes a heavy workload. However, adoption and regular use of appropriate PFD are still not followed for various concerns such as restriction of mobility and comfort. This study aimed to assess the impact of two types of PFDs on physiological responses and perceived comfort while exposed to a simulated physical workload. METHODS: Ten healthy participants (7 males and 3 females; 23 ± 4 years; mass = 78 ± 14 kg; height = 176 ± 9 cm) were assessed for different measures of heart rate (HR) and perceived subjective comfort and mobility while wearing no PFD, an automatic minimalist PFD, and a traditional dual PFD while performing repeated physical workloads of lifting and placing boxes (25% of body weight) from floor to desk for 15 mins. The no PFD condition was performed first, followed by a counter-balanced order of the PFDs, with 10 minutes of rest between conditions. Resting, maximum, average, and recovery HR in the three PFD conditions were analyzed with a 3×4 repeated measures ANOVA, and perceived comfort and mobility scores from the questionnaire were analyzed using independent sample t-tests for the PFD conditions. RESULTS: Analyses revealed that while average and maximum HR during the workload was significantly higher than resting and recovery (p<0.001), significant differences between the PFD conditions were not recorded. Although not statistically significant, subjects perceived the auto PFD as more comfortable and less restrictive for mobility. CONCLUSIONS: Findings from the current study indicate that PFDs, regardless of the type, do not negatively impact HR responses when exposed to a physical workload. When compared, the minimalistic auto PFD was demonstrated to be more comfortable with the least mobility restriction, thus suggesting positive promotion for PFD use and adoption.

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