Background UK fire services have differing practices relating to the use of a cardiorespiratory fitness standard as a selection criterion for recruits.
Aims To establish whether a reduction in, or elimination of, a defined cardiorespiratory standard for firefighter recruitment impacted on a number of occupational and health-related outcomes.
Methods Data were collected on firefighter recruits from services which applied either a minimum recruit cardiorespiratory fitness standard of 42 ml O2/kg/min (398 full-time and 48 part-time recruits) or no such direct standard (198 full-time and 206 part-time subjects). VO2 max estimated, where available, was also recorded and the impact of a reduction in the standard from 45 to 42 ml O2/kg/min assessed.
Results Twenty-five per cent of all recruits reported injury during training. Injury-related restrictions were more likely where no cardiorespiratory standard was applied for full-time recruits. For part-time recruits, higher VO2 max (est.) predicted a lower incidence of injuries. Further adverse health-related outcomes were found for full-time and part-time recruits. Multiple regression analyses suggest that eliminating the 42 ml O2/kg/min cardiorespiratory standard at recruitment for full-time firefighters was associated with an 8% (95% CI 7.16–8.84) increase in subsequent injuries reported during training. For part-time firefighters, VO2 max (est.) was inversely associated with 5% of the variation in injuries (95% CI 4.66–5.34).
Conclusions Removal of a cardiorespiratory fitness standard was associated with adverse health and employment outcomes. Older age and gender were not associated with adverse outcomes. No reliable evidence of adverse outcomes from a reduction in a cardiorespiratory standard from 45 to 42 ml O2/kg/min was found.