Physical employment standards for U.K. fire and rescue service personnel


October 2015

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Background: Evidence-based physical employment standards are vital for recruiting, training and maintaining the operational effectiveness of personnel in physically demanding occupations.

Aims: (i) Develop criterion tests for in-service physical assessment, which simulate the role-related physical demands of UK fire and rescue service (UK FRS) personnel. (ii) Develop practical physical selection tests for FRS applicants. (iii) Evaluate the validity of the selection tests to predict criterion test performance.

Methods: Stage 1: we conducted a physical demands analysis involving seven workshops and an expert panel to document the key physical tasks required of UK FRS personnel and to develop 'criterion' and 'selection' tests. Stage 2: we measured the performance of 137 trainee and 50 trained UK FRS personnel on selection, criterion and 'field' measures of aerobic power, strength and body size. Statistical models were developed to predict criterion test performance. Stage 3: matter experts derived minimum performance standards.

Results: We developed single person simulations of the key physical tasks required of UK FRS personnel as criterion and selection tests (rural fire, domestic fire, ladder lift, ladder extension, ladder climb, pump assembly, enclosed space search). Selection tests were marginally stronger predictors of criterion test performance (r = 0.88-0.94, 95% Limits of Agreement [LoA] 7.6-14.0%) than field test scores (r = 0.84-0.94, 95% LoA 8.0-19.8%) and offered greater face and content validity and more practical implementation.

Conclusions: This study outlines the development of role-related, gender-free physical employment tests for the UK FRS, which conform to equal opportunities law.

Occup Med (Lond) (2016) 66(1):38-45

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