Can Firefighters Wear Glasses?
Questions we often get asked are “can firefighters wear glasses?” and “do firefighters need perfect eyesight?”. While you must pass an eye exam before you can become a firefighter, you are tested while wearing your glasses or contact lenses.
Therefore, even if you don’t have perfect eyesight, you can still become a firefighter. The main issue with wearing glasses while attending a fire comes when you have to put on a mask. There are options you can consider though.
But first, let’s look at what passing an eye exam involves.
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Vision Screening For Firefighters
According to the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning, the following vision screening tests are conducted as part of your medical assessment.
- Screening for colour vision. Medical assessment for colour vision uses the Ishihara test that focuses mainly on red and green. Applicants are shown pictures of green and red spotted circles. These circles will have green or red numbers in the centre. These tests are conducted to determine whether a firefighter will have the ability to read topographic maps or spot coloured markers in the field.
- Testing for distance vision. This test requires a candidate to read an eye chart from a distance of 3 metres. The candidate does this for each eye while covering the other one. Candidates who wear corrective eyewear such as glasses or contact lenses are able to take the test both with and without their eyewear.
- Testing for near vision. This test requires the candidate to hold a card at arm’s length and read it. This is done for each eye while covering the other one. Candidates can complete this test both with and without their glasses or contact lenses.
Note: According to FRNSW, candidates with colour vision deficiencies are still able to become firefighters. But, this may not be the case in every state.
Now, let’s look at the minimum requirements to pass a vision test.
Minimum Vision Requirements
The following information is taken from the Medical Standards report issued by the QFES.
- Distance vision required is 6/9 in each eye while wearing corrective eyewear if needed.
- Near vision should be at least N.5 in each eye while wearing corrective eyewear if needed.
- The minimum requirement without wearing corrective eyewear is 6/36 in the better eye.
- Glasses and contact lenses are permitted as long as they meet AS 1337 (Eye protectors for industrial applications).
- Glasses are permitted as long as they cannot be dislodged when firefighters engage in strenuous activity.
- It’s also necessary to maintain an adequate face seal while wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and glasses.
- Contact lenses are not permitted as they can become dislodged and cannot be replaced while wearing an SCBA.
Note: As a wearer of soft contact lenses knows, it’s difficult to dislodge them unless the eye is rubbed vigorously. Most seasoned contact lens wearers learn not to do this. I’ve also read many comments on firefighter forums that mention the firefighter wearing contact lenses successfully. It’s also possible to obtain extended wear lenses that don’t have to be taken out nightly.
If you do wear contact lenses, you might want to discuss this with your relevant state authority to see whether an exception can be made.
Overcoming The Seal Requirement While Wearing A SCBA
If you cannot create an effective seal with a self-contained breathing apparatus while wearing your glasses, there are a few things you can do.
- Wear contact lenses if these are permitted by your state fire service. Consider extended wear lenses that you don’t have to take out nightly. This means that if you’re called out at night or have a nap during the day, you won’t have to quickly insert your lenses before responding to a call.
- Obtain a special prescription insert kit for your SCBA mask. These kits allow you to fit prescription lenses that you can obtain from your optometrist. If your state fire service does not provide these kits, you can purchase them online fairly inexpensively.
Consider Laser Eye Surgery To Correct Your Vision
Laser eye surgery has come a long way since it was first introduced. Therefore, this is something that you might want to consider if you can afford it.
Plus, the cost has come down as more advances in technology have been made. You can get this procedure done for around $3,000 per eye depending on what type of eye surgery you’re suited to.
The bonus with laser eye surgery is that it takes only seconds to perform the surgery on each eye and you can be back to your normal day’s activities within 24 hours.
You should not be deterred from applying to become a firefighter if you have less-than-perfect vision. In most cases, firefighters can wear glasses or contact lenses as long as they pass the eye test while wearing them.
There is also the option of getting a prescription kit for your SCBA mask so you don’t have to wear your glasses with the mask. Check with your individual state fire service to see what their requirements are.
If you have any further questions, please contact us here at Fire Recruitment Australia and we’ll be happy to assist you.
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