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Latest news on Health and fitness issues impacting on the British Fire Service.

Enhancing the Health, Fitness and Performance of UK Firefighters: an Interim Report

Dr AG Siddall, Dr M Standage, Dr KA Stokes and Dr JLJ Bilzon

Department for Health, University of Bath. March 2014

Executive Summary

It is widely recognised that the role of a firefighter involves a wide variety of tasks that can be both physically and mentally arduous, and often unpredictable in nature and duration. As such, an integral part of being able to perform the role of a firefighter safely and effectively is the maintenance of physical health and fitness. The importance of fitness is recognised at the point of selection, where personnel are required to pass a battery of Firefighter Selection Tests (FST). It is now important for the UK Fire & Rescue Services (FRS) to establish empirically-informed minimum occupational fitness requirements, based on the demands of the job, to form the basis of an annual health and fitness assessment. However, it is also important to understand the health behaviours of current personnel and identify associated risks to health and wellbeing.

Normal Pension Age for Firefighters
A review for the Firefighter’s Pensions Committee

Fire Service NPA Review 2012

This paper reviews and analyses the evidence for changes in fitness with age, and for changes in prevalence of chronic disease with age. It quantifies these changes in order to produce a model that gives estimates for numbers likely to be aerobically fit at an NPA, both for firefighters who do not maintain physical fitness and body mass index as they age and for firefighters who do.

Questions over statin prescribing

Healthy people may derive no benefit from taking cholesterol-lowering statins

Healthy people may derive no benefit from taking cholesterol-lowering statins, according to a review of previous studies. The report, published in The Cochrane Library, concluded that statins reduced death rates. But it said there was no evidence to justify their use in people at low risk of developing heart disease. The British Heart Foundation said the benefits of prescribing statins for those people was unclear. Millions of people in the UK take statins, which reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke by lowering the level of cholesterol in the blood. They are available both on prescription and in low doses over the counter in pharmacies.


Exercise 'can prevent a cold', a study shows!

People who exercise regularly are less likely to get a cold, researchers say.

A study of 1,000 people found that staying active nearly halved the odds of catching cold viruses and, failing that, made the infection less severe. Experts told the British Journal of Sports Medicine that this could be because exercise helps bolster the immune system to fight off bugs.

To read the full BBC News report click here

Gail Cotton retires!

Gail Cotton, Head of Occupational Health, Fitness and Safety for Leicestershire Fire & Rescue Service and just as important FireFit Steering Group member for the last six years has anounced that she is to retire in July 2010.

Gail will be missed by all who worked with her particularily here at FireFit as her enthusiasm, energy, professionalism and friendship adhered her to us all. Gail is pictured with Paul Hancock FireFit Chair recieving a gift from the group. We all wish Gail and her husband a full and happy retirement in their new home in Hampshire.

Peak Performance - VO2max predicts performance!

Peak Performance have released an article that asks if V02max can predict your future health, or, more specifically, your risk of having a heart attack! The informative article is available to view by clicking here or to read many other interesting health and fitness related artcles why not visit

Wellbeing at work study with Nottingham Trent University - An opportunity to get involved.

Nottingham Trent University are running a scientific study into how work impacts on health and well-being. They would like Fire & Rescue Services to be involved. The data will be collected using an on-line questionnaire which will have very little resource implications to you organisation. The benefits however may well be substantial. For more information, please click here to download the document.
Five-a-day has little impact on cancer, study finds.

Eating more fruit and vegetables has only a modest effect on protecting against cancer, a study in to the link between diet and disease has found. The full BBC News article can be read by clicking here.

Canadian research backs up FireFit's stance!

Cardiorespiratory fitness and the metabolic syndrome in firefighters

An abstract of the article appears on the Oxford Journals website; click here to read the article.

Fitness for Fire and Rescue.
Standards, Protocols and Policy

The purpose of this document is to outline safe, accurate, reliable and cost effective methods of assessing Firefighter fitness levels and to identify the most suitable tests to use. It is recognised that there is a wide range of knowledge and skills within each Fire & Rescue Service, which will influence the type of assessment method employed. This document provides a toolkit of tests with supporting documentation, which will offer solutions for all Fitness Advisers, Occupational Health Advisers and Human Resource Managers within Fire and Rescue Services. Furthermore, based on the currently available scientific research, recommendations are presented for a national standard for aerobic fitness for safe, effective firefighting..

FireFit Steering Group Questionnaire to the UK FRS

The FireFit Steering Group have been attempting to assess the provision of fitness testing/provision of fitness related advice to the Uk Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) personnel throughout the UK. It is intended that the information will assist us in designing fitness training courses tailored for FRSs and assist with future policy issues relating to Fire Fighter fitness. Click on the image to down load a copy of the questionnaire that has been circulated to all the UK FRSs. The results of the questionnaire will be discussed at the Conference in Durham.

To download the full results of the questionnaire
 click here.
New Research document available....

Comprehensive warm-up programme to prevent injuries in young female footballers: cluster randomised controlled trial

Objective - "To examine the effect of a comprehensive warm-up programme designed to reduce the risk of injuries in female youth football."

The abstract document is available to download on the Reports

Blood Pressure in Firefighters, Police Officers, and Other Emergency Responders.

This is a research article from the American Journal of Hypertension. It discusses elevated risk of cardiovascular events on the fireground (and in other emergency services workers) and that the majority of events occur in people who are mildly hypertensive or pre-hypertensive. It suggests aggressive monitoring of blood pressure is necessary in these populations.

Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service launch their new Fitness Policy incorporating several key FireFit recommendations....

Bedfordshire and Luton fire and Rescue Service have just launched their brand new Fitness Policy. The Authority seeks to follow the standards set by the guidance of the ‘Fitness for Fire and Rescue Standards, Protocols and Policy’ document created by the FireFit Steering Group (July 2007).

While acknowledging that an optimum level of physical fitness can play an important role in reducing ill health, injuries and accidents, the Authority are stating that the standard of fitness recommended in their policy is the minimum to assure the safety of Firefighters.

Cumbria FRS - Physical Training Advisors Conference June 2008.

Cumbria FRS have held their third Physical Training Advisors Conference at Service HQ in Cockermouth. The event had an interesting and diverse programme of speakers (including FireFit Steering Group members) addressing the issues in todays fire service regarding operational fitness. Chief Fire Officer Dominic Harrison indicated that Cumbria FRS have worked hard over the past few years to raise the level of fitness and this in part was due to to the introduction of trained Physical Training Advisors into the Service.

The main Conference themes centred around the National Firefighter Selection tests and the 12 recommendations set by the FireFit Steering Group.

Our Fire and Rescue Service Practitioners' Forum - news....

Meeting papers (Item No 07/23 National Standards for Firefighter Fitness);
18th April, 2007.

'The work to devise the new National Fire Fighter Selection Tests was the first detailed research undertaken into the fitness requirements of the role of a Fire Fighter. The new tests have been devised to meet the occupational requirements of the role and to identify those with the potential to be developed into Fire Fighters. This work highlighted the fact that there are no agreed standards of fitness for serving Fire Fighters. A Task and Finish Group has been set up by CFOA under the HR Director to extend the work undertaken in the course of development of the NFS and to make recommendations on the standards of fitness required for serving staff.' To view the meeting papers click on the PDF logo;

Chief Fire Officers Association - News....

HR Strategic Update Report by: Des Prichard CFO & CE

National Firefighter Selection Tests (NFSTs);

Discussions have been had with Gill McManus who led the implementation of NFSTs on behalf of the CLG with a review planned for early 2007. A key issue to consider is fitness standards both at point of entry and on going which were not included in the initial NFSTs. CFOA will be looking to work with CLG to consider appropriate fitness standards for operational personnel and to consider how fitness standards can be assessed, monitored and measured. Members of Firefit are working within the CFOA HR Working Groups to provide professional knowledge and expertise on fitness and fitness standards and how this could be appropriately applied to firefighters. In addition, the review will look at all aspects of NFSTs to ensure that they deliver desired outcomes and support for progress of equality and diversity within the Service.

Comunities and Local Government (CLG) - News....

The FireFit Steering Group have been working closely with the CLG to provide a new exercise programme suitable for individual wishing to improve their fitness levels prior to participation in the new NFST. The finalised document which appears on the new Recruitment and Selection DVD is available to download here

General Exercise Guidance document

Suggested exercise programme

"Good exercise training advice is highly specific to the individual. It should be understood, therefore, that the advice provided here can only be general. The role of a firefighter can be physically demanding. Firefighters are required to be aerobically fit, have good all-round body strength and stamina. As a result, the entry selection tests are designed to reflect the actual physical tasks that firefighters are required to perform.".

Optimal Performance - News....

Optimal Performance Limited on behalf of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister have produced the Fire Research Technical Report 1/2005: The top priority of the report has been defined as the need to ‘Quantify the Physiological Requirements of Firefighter Key Tasks and Identify the Limiting Factors to Performance’. including the identification and quantification of key firefighter tasks, improvements to the knowledge base about firefighter fitness and work performance capability, and the identification and modulation of factors that limit performance.

In general terms, it is clear that for operational firefighting ‘more fitness is better’, i.e. the fitter and healthier the workforce, the harder and quicker they will be able to work, the more efficient they will be, and the quicker they will recover. This is particularly true when working in demanding thermal environments, especially when wearing PPE including SCBA. The national fitness profile of the current UK firefighting population is currently unknown and it is not possible to confirm that the UK firefighter health and fitness profile meets the requirements of the normal or occasionally more extreme demands of firefighting.

To view the full report click on the PDF logo;



Chief Fire Officers Association