For those of you who read our regular e-bulletins you will be aware that we have strong views on the newly created fitness standard that has been formulated from the CFOA guidance issued last year.
A number of services have even ‘gold plated’ the guidance, claiming that ALL operational staff should achieve the minimum standard of 42.3Vo2max, irrespective of role, age and gender. This means that whether you’re 18 or 65, an On-Call firefighter or a Chief Fire Officer, you have to attain and maintain the same level of fitness.
Our view is that this is nonsense, and that a blanket policy isn’t required for all staff.
The RFU is the only representative body that didn’t sign up to the national fitness standard for this very reason. Requirements of role, age and gender, are all relevant factors that need to be taken into account when determining whether an individual is capable of performing their role competently and safely.
What makes this entire situation even more nonsensical is when you compare the fitness requirements in London Fire Brigade compared to say, the Outer Hebrides, Norfolk, Cumbria, Cornwall or any FRS outside of London. Our research has identified that you need to be ‘fitter’ outside of London than within the capital.
Let us make it clear, we agree with the London fitness policy, it makes sense to take into account role, age and gender. So are London firefighters at a greater health or mortality risk compared to firefighters in other services? We are not aware of any evidence that they are.
The consequences of the new fitness standard being implemented across the UK is that a number of On-Call firefighters are choosing to leave. Leaving because they fear the fitness assessment, leaving because they marginally fail the assessment and believe it to be unachievable for them and leaving because of the lack of support from their employers to attain and maintain the required level of fitness.
As we all know, there is already an ongoing battle to overcome the problems with the recruitment and retention of On-Call firefighters, the new fitness standard will not help this cause.
Added to the fact that the operational equipment now available and in use is more technically advanced than ever before, plus officers/services are more risk averse in modern times, why do firefighters need to be fitter?
So how did we get into this mess?
Well partly down to the CFOA, an unaccountable body of Principle Officers, who took it upon themselves to commission a piece of work by Bath University, to formulate a set of fitness standards. There was no evidence available at the time that fitness was a problem in the fire service, but they believed they could find a solution anyway.
Operational personnel also need to look at the representative body who accepted the standard, nationally and locally and why that standard is different in London compared to elsewhere across the UK.
If you are an On-Call member of staff and your representative body agreed to this standard, perhaps you should be asking them why and why they agreed a different standard in London.
As for the RFU, we continue to lobby Fire Authorities at local level and the Home Office where we raised the matter with the Police and Fire Minister when we met last week.
Further talks are due to take place with the Home Office next month.
If you believe your interests are best served as a member of the RFU, please feel free to join us here, you will be most welcome and we can guarantee your opinion will be heard and valued.