Physical Fitness Standards

Physical Fitness Management

Fitness Management Concept

Physical fitness is a safety critical issue, and the main concept of the fitness management framework detailed in this guidance stems from the notion that without adequate physical fitness, physically demanding environments such as emergency responses, can place excessive strain upon the body. Such excessive strain gives considerable rise to risk of injury and, more seriously, cardiac events, which are associated with over-exertion.

The fitness standards, informed by empirical scientific evidence, have been mapped onto a framework for managing individuals with varying fitness levels, based on their likelihood of having the required level of physical fitness to perform necessary operational duties safely and effectively without undue physical strain.

The frameworks follows a traffic light system, where:

Green = Highly likely to be fit for operational duties.

Amber = May or may not be fit for operational duties.

Red = Highly likely to be unfit for operational duties.  

Fitness Traffic Light

The amber section reflects the variance that exists between individuals’ abilities to cope with varied physically demanding firefighting duties.


General Fitness Management Process

Fitness Test


Cardiorespiratory Fitness Standards (VO2 max)

Fire and rescue services should consider adopting the updated fitness standards for both firefighting roles and incident command roles.

Operational Firefighters

Those in an operational firefighting role should have their fitness categorised and managed in the following manner:

GREEN - Equal to or above 42.3 ml/kg/min 

  • Should be considered physically fit for operational duties, having reached or exceeded the minimum acceptable level for their role.
  • Fitness retested on an annual basis.

AMBER - Below 42.3 ml/kg/min but equal to or above 35.6 ml/kg/min

  • Should be considered possibly unfit for operational duties.
  • Should undergo further assessment to determine their suitability for operational duties by performing a drill ground assessment. In order to be considered safe to undertake a potentially maximal-intensity drill ground assessment, individuals should successfully pass a suitable physical activity risk assessment (see chapter on Safety). Where an individual fails a physical activity risk assessment, they should be referred to Occupational Health for further assessment. Following this assessment, individuals should either be considered safe to undertake a drill ground assessment, or unsafe and be removed from operational duties until they are safe to engage in vigorous intensity exercise.
  • Those that pass the drill ground assessment should be considered fit, but be given appropriate exercise/fitness improvement advice and retested in 6-months
  • Individuals that fail a drill ground assessment should be referred to Occupational Health and removed from operational duties and given a fitness improvement plan and re-tested at suitable intervals until the individual has reached the GREEN fitness category or successfully completed the drill ground assessment.
  • Those that do not pass a physical activity risk assessment should be referred to occupational health for further assessment since they are not yet considered safe to perform a potentially maximal-intensity drill ground assessment (see section below on Safe for High Intensity Exercise). Those that are not considered safe to perform a drill ground assessment by occupational health should be removed from operational duties and given a fitness improvement plan and re-tested at suitable intervals until the individual has reached the GREEN fitness category or successfully completed the drill ground assessment.
  • Those that are considered safe to undertake the drill ground assessment by occupational health should be allowed to do some and managed in the same manner as directed above.

RED - Below 35.6 mlsO2/kg/min

  • Should be considered unfit and be removed from operational duties.
  • Be given a fitness improvement plan and re-tested at regular intervals (see fitness improvement section below) until the individuals has reached the GREEN fitness category or successfully completed the drill ground assessment.

Firefighting Personnel VO2 Fitness Test Result

Thresholds for cardio-respiratory fitness tests

Firefighting Personnel

Step Test

Treadmill Test

Bleep Test

42.3 ml/kg/min

Line / Calc

12 mins

Level 8 Shuttle 8

35.6 ml/kg/min

Line / Calc

~10 mins

Level 6 shuttle 8

 

Incident Commanders

Those in an incident command role should have their fitness categorised and managed in the following manner:

GREEN - Equal to or above 36.8 ml/kg/min

  • Should be considered physically fit for operational duty, having reached or exceeded the minimum acceptable level for their role.
  • Fitness retested at yearly intervals.

AMBER - Below 36.8 ml/kg/min but equal to or above 31.3 ml/kg/min

  • Should be referred to occupational health and categorised as low, moderate or high risk based on a possible low level of fitness and other medical risk factors.
  • Those considered low or moderate risk should be considered fit for operational duties, but be given exercise advice and retested at more frequent intervals (low risk 6 monthly; moderate risk 1-3 monthly). 
  • Those that are considered high risk should be should be considered unfit for operational duties, be removed from operational duties and given a fitness improvement plan and retested at suitable intervals until the individual has reached the GREEN fitness category or the AMBER fitness category and considered low or moderate risk by occupational health.

RED – Below 31.4 ml/kg/min

  • Should be considered unfit and be removed from operational duties.
  • Be given a fitness improvement plan and re-tested at suitable intervals until the individuals has reached the GREEN fitness category or the AMBER fitness category and considered low or moderate risk by occupational health.

Incident Commander VO2 Fitness Test Result

Thresholds for cardio-respiratory fitness tests

Incident Commander

Step Test

Treadmill Test

Bleep Test

36.8 ml/kg/min

Line / Calc

~10 mins 15 sec

Level 7 Shuttle 1

31.4 ml/kg/min

Line / Calc

~8 mins

Level 5 shuttle 5