Fitness of Firefighters
ONGOING ASSESSMENT OF FITNESS NEEDED FOR FIREFIGHTERS
Fire and Rescue NSW
Fire and Rescue NSW do not know whether all its firefighters are fit to perform their full range of operational duties. Once they are employed, there are no formal checks on firefighters’ health and fitness during their career. Also, while a health standard for firefighters has been developed it has not been agreed nor implemented.
However, to be recruited by Fire and Rescue NSW, firefighters must pass fitness tests and there are measures which provide an indication of firefighter’s health and fitness during their career. For example, skills training which requires a certain level of fitness, reports on near miss injury incidents and data on workers compensation claims.
‘Fire and Rescue NSW should implement regular mandatory health and fitness assessments for firefighters,’ said the Auditor-General, Mr Grant Hehir.
The Auditor-General also recommended implementing measures that require firefighters, as part of their duties, to undertake activities to maintain their fitness.
‘Fire and Rescue NSW should assist firefighters who fail their assessment to regain the required fitness standard and properly manage those firefighters who continually fail assessments,’ said the Auditor-General.
The NSW Rural Fire Service
The NSW Rural Fire Service does not know whether all its firefighters are currently fit to perform their full range of operational duties. There is no specific fitness standard and assessment to join as a volunteer and no ongoing requirements for volunteer members to maintain a specific level of fitness. Volunteers with the NSW Rural Fire Service self-declare any health and fitness issues that may impact on their ability to carry out their roles.
Brigade captains informally monitor fitness and allocate tasks at an incident, based on their assessment of the volunteer member’s capability.
There are fitness standards and ongoing assessments for specialist roles exposed to high risk environments and conditions, for example, remote area firefighters. However, there is no specific fitness requirement for volunteer members who face similar risks, for example, those fighting bush fires.
‘The NSW Rural Fire Service should undertake a risk analysis on the current approach to managing the health and fitness of volunteer members, particularly those who actively fight fires,’ the Auditor-General recommended.
The Auditor-General also recommended introducing health and fitness initiatives to encourage volunteer firefighters to maintain their fitness.
Barry Underwood, Executive Officer, 9275 7220 or 0403 073 664; email: firstname.lastname@example.org