Firefighting Career: What Medical Conditions Need To Be Reviewed?
Firefighting Career: What Medical Conditions Need To Be Reviewed
If you’re interested in a firefighting career, you need to understand that there are certain medical conditions that could disqualify you from entering this profession. Additionally, there are other conditions that may need to be reviewed on a case by case basis.
The strenuous job requirements of being a firefighter dictate that all firefighters need to have an optimum level of fitness and health. Depending on which state service you want to apply to, there are varying medical conditions that may disqualify you or will need further assessment.
We’re going to look at each fire service in Australia and New Zealand separately and discuss the requirements for medical reviews for each one.
Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW)
The medical assessment for anyone pursuing a firefighting career at FRNSW is completed by an occupation physician. Prior to the assessment, you’ll need to supply blood, urine, and spirometry tests plus an ECG. You’ll also have to provide medical documents that are related to any previous surgeries, hospitalisations or other health conditions. In addition, you need to provide a current status report from your treating doctor.
This information is then assessed against the demands of the job. Certain conditions will raise concerns. These include conditions that:
Carry a risk of sudden incapacity or impairment
Could affect functional capacity to perform your duties
Could be aggravated by your firefighting duties
After your initial medical assessment, a further review may be required. Concerning conditions which may disqualify you from becoming a firefighter include:
A previous heart attack
An implantable defibrillator
Diabetes which requires the use of insulin to control
If you wear hearing aids
The permanent need for blood-thinning medication
Any joint replacement surgery you may have had
We contacted FRNSW to see if they had a list of medical conditions that required further review and their response was:
“All medical assessments for firefighting positions in FRNSW are undertaken very much on a case by case basis and the provision of a list of conditions is therefore not possible.”
They did stress though, that good cardiac health was vitally important.
Department of Fire & Emergency Services WA (DFES)
According to DFES, applicants who want to pursue a firefighting career have to be occupationally, medically, and physically fit. Applicants also have to be free of any disability, disease, or impairment.
Conditions which could disqualify an applicant include:
Eyesight disorder including certain degrees of colour blindness
DFES uses the Ishihara Plate test to test for colour vision. If an applicant fails this test, a further review is needed.
Any condition which is due to an injury or posture could increase the risk of injury on the job. These conditions require further assessment and review to give an indication of the short term impact.
We contacted DFES to see if we could get any more information and this is what they said:
“We are guided by the AFAC Medical Guidelines and each applicant who is shortlisted for a place on the trainee firefighter school undertakes a pre-employment medical screening. This assesses an individual’s medical and physical ability to undertake the duties of the role.”
South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS)
The following are conditions which will disqualify you from pursuing a firefighting career with SAMFS:
Ophthalmic conditions – includes:
Impaired vision less than 6/12 in the worst eye
Abnormal visual fields
Retained intraocular foreign body
History of retinal detachment.
ENT conditions – includes:
Chronic or acute ear infection
Severe nasal obstruction
Severe speech impediment including stammer
Severe hayfever which will necessitate extensive time off work.
Conditions of the Respiratory System – includes:
Asthma that requires medication or treatment with steroids
Recent or recurrent Pneumothorax
Chronic obstructive airways
Any chronic or active pulmonary condition.
Conditions of the Cardiovascular system – includes:
Coronary artery disease
Organic heart disease
Major cardiac arrhythmia
Musculoskeletal conditions – includes:
Nerve root pressure
Spinal or limb deformity
Active joint disease
Chronic joint disorder
Muscular disorders that are progressive
Spinal or lower limb degeneration.
Conditions of the Central Nervous system – includes:
Blackouts or fainting attacks
Recurrent severe headache or migraine.
Gastrointestinal conditions – includes:
Active peptic ulcer
Bowel disease with frequent diarrhoea
Gall bladder disease
Genito Urinary conditions – includes:
Recurrent urinary infections
Active sexually transmitted disease
Hydronephrosis or polycystic kidney
Acute or chronic nephritis
Presence in the urine of glucose, blood, protein.
Endocrine conditions – includes:
Parathyroid or pituitary disease.
Conditions of the Haemopoietic system – includes:
Chronic blood disease
Any history of thrombo-embolic disease
Bleeding disorders including anticoagulation.
Any Infectious disease that compromises the immune system.
Dermatological conditions – includes:
Chronic skin disease
Severe facial acne that would inhibit the use of breathing apparatus
Severe allergic skin disorders.
Any Psychiatric conditions such as anxiety, psychosis, neurosis, depressive disorder, confined space disorder and acrophobia.
Head and Neck deformities that would inhibit the use of breathing apparatus.
Alcohol or Drug abuse.
Any other conditions will be assessed and reviewed on a case by case basis.
Fire Rescue Victoria
All applicants who wish to pursue a firefighting career with FRV have to supply a medical clearance form from a medical practitioner as part of their application process.
Disqualifying conditions include:
Hearing or eyesight disorders including colour blindness
For further clarification on conditions which will be assessed on a case by case basis, we found this information on their (new) website:
“If you believe you have a particular condition that may prevent you from being granted medical clearance and you wish to clarify this prior to submitting your application, please contact:
St Kilda Road Medical Centre
Level 1, 391 St Kilda Road
Queensland Fire & Emergency Services (QFES)
According to the QFES medical standards, the following conditions will disqualify you from pursuing a firefighting career:
Vision Impairment – It is permissible to wear glasses to correct your vision as long as they meet the Australian standard, cannot be dislodged during strenuous activity, and will not impede the face seal of self-contained breathing apparatus. Contact lenses are not acceptable.
Colour blindness – Generally, this will require further assessment.
Cardiac conditions – This includes cardiomyopathy or other heart diseases. If the disease is mild, a further assessment can be obtained.
Myocardial Infarction – This will be assessed on a case by case basis.
Arrhythmias – If you have been symptom-free for 6 months and get a letter from your cardiologist, your case will be reviewed.
Insulin Dependent Diabetes – Type II diabetes that is treated with sulphonylureas may be considered if you are free of hypoglycaemia and other significant complications.
Epilepsy – If you’ve been clear of seizures for at least 2 years and take anti-epileptic drugs, your case may be reviewed.
Stroke due to cerebral artery occlusion from thrombosis, embolism, or vasospasm. Further assessment is considered if the stroke has left no neurological deficit or the cause of the stroke has been corrected.
Asthma – can be assessed further.
Chronic respiratory disease.
Arthritis in knees, hips, back, shoulder, or neck. Includes recurrent shoulder dislocation.
Significant back disability. This can have the possibility of further assessment.
The following conditions will require further assessment and review:
Any cardiac condition
Ischaemic heart disease
Moderate to severe valvular disease
Any skin condition that impairs sweating
The taking of certain medications such as:
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
Each application will be assessed on a case by case basis.
Northern Territory Fire & Rescue Service (NTFRS)
Each applicant who hopes to have a firefighting career with NTFRS needs to be examined by an approved medical practitioner. According to their medical guidelines, the following conditions will disqualify an applicant:
Corrected distance vision less than 6/9 binocular in both eyes and less than 6/18 in either eye
Uncorrected distance vision less than 6/36 binocular in both eyes
Corrected near vision less than N5 in both eyes
Visual fields less than 120 degrees horizontal
Colour blindness (protan and deutran)
Severe corneal scarring
Severe uncorrectable binaural hearing loss
Any condition that results in the sudden onset of vertigo
Heart valve defect
Persistent severe hypertension especially with evidence of end-organ damage
Taking medications which cause postural hypotension or drowsiness
An untreated aortic or cerebral aneurysm
Present or recurrent pneumothorax
Total knee or hip replacement
Degenerative arthritis of hip, knee or ankle
Hip, knee or ankle injury with significant loss of movement
History of head injury with cognitive impairment
Epilepsy with a seizure-free period of less than 5 years
Any brain injury affecting cognitive function, balance or neuromuscular function
Malignant tumours of the bowel, GI tract, kidney or prostate
Pregnancy and 6 weeks postpartum
Incontinence of bowel or bladder
Active malignancies of blood and lymphatic systems
Any highly contagious infection
Diabetes mellitus with a history of low blood sugar and loss of consciousness
Organic brain dysfunction
Use of illegal or dependent drugs which may cause psychomotor impairment
The following conditions will require further assessment and review:
Mild colour blindness (deutran)
Any other progressive or recurring eye disease
Severe uncorrectable unilateral hearing loss
Acute or chronic pericarditis, endocarditis or myocarditis
Taking anti-coagulants especially warfarin
Asymptomatic heart valve lesions
History of coronary artery disease
Atrial tachycardia, flutter or fibrillation
Bradycardia resulting in syncope
Recurrent paroxysmal tachycardia
History of congenital cardiac anomalies
Stroke due to haemorrhage
Transient ischaemic attack
Stroke due to ischaemia
History of treated aortic or cerebral aneurysm
Taking anticoagulant medication
Clinical evidence of peripheral vascular disease
Recurrent deep vein thrombosis
Any significant abnormality of the aorta, carotid arteries or other large blood vessels
BP less than 150/95 which is persistent and not responding to treatment
Certain types of asthma
Conditions with functional lung volumes of 20% or more below the predicted value
Restrictive lung disease
Chest wall deformity
Previous lung surgery
History of tracheostomy
History of a back condition requiring diskectomy, laminectomy or spinal fusion
Hip resurfacing procedures
Loss of articular cartilage
Amputation or deformity of a joint or limb
Recurrent dislocation of the shoulder
Recurrent or tendonitis of shoulder, elbow, wrist or hand
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Fracture or dislocation of any bone or joint
Osteomyelitis or arthritis of any joint in the spine
Skull, jaw or facial conditions that may restrict the ability to wear a helmet or breathing apparatus
Thoracic outlet syndrome
A single seizure for which the cause is unclear or highly unlikely to recurrent
Epilepsy where the person has been seizure-free for more than 5 years without taking medication
Clinical pain syndrome
Peripheral sensory or motor neuropathy
Peripheral nerve injury
Spinal cord injury
Any significant head injury or concussion
Congenital neurological malformations
Acute infectious or non-infectious hepatitis
Inflammatory bowel disease
Acute GI bleeding
Malignant tumours following treatment
Loss of kidney or other abdominal organs
Acute or chronic renal failure
Treated malignancies of the blood or lymphatic systems with no abnormality in the full blood count
Chronic fatigue syndrome
HIV or hepatitis c infections
Mild connective tissue disease
Evidence of a predisposition to heat stress
Thyroid, adrenal or pituitary gland disorders
Psychiatric condition associated with substance abuse
History of post-traumatic stress disorder
History of major depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders
Regular use of alcohol or drugs that may affect the safe performance of operational duties
Tasmania Fire Service (TFS)
We couldn’t find very much information regarding medical conditions. However, their application process does indicate that you need a medical clearance form that is completed and signed by your GP.
We contacted TFS to see if we could get more information and this is their reply:
“We aren’t able to specify that a person may not become a FF because of a specified medical condition. We have our applicants see an Occupational Physician with the attached form so that each condition can be taken into consideration by a professional.”
The form that they supplied had some additional information. Namely, the following conditions would preclude someone from becoming a firefighter:
- A history of asthma
- Significant hay fever
- Significant colour blindness
- Impaired eyesight or hearing
Fire & Emergency New Zealand (FENZ)
If you suffer from any condition that limits your mobility in any way, you will be disqualified from a firefighting career with Fire & Emergency New Zealand.
The following conditions will require further assessment:
Epilepsy or loss of consciousness
Some heart conditions
FENZ will assess each applicant on a case by case basis.
If you’re interested in a firefighting career, we hope you found this information helpful. If you have any questions about firefighting, feel free to send them to us via chat, email, or in the comments below.
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