Establishing and Ensuring the Health, Fitness and Operational Performance of UK Fire & Rescue Service Personnel

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Firefighting is a strenuous occupation requiring high levels of physical fitness. Inadequate levels of fitness can put firefighters and risk of overexertion and injury. Therefore ensuring that firefighters maintain role specific fitness levels throughout their career is critical to both firefighter and public safety. The aim of this thesis was to investigate the minimum cardiorespiratory, strength and muscular endurance demands UK firefighting and to recommend minimum physical employment standards to ensure the operational effectiveness and safety of firefighting personnel working in the UK fire & rescue service. The first study developed a task analysis protocol to identify the minimum acceptable performance requirements of the critical and most physically demanding tasks in UK firefighting, identifying 2 distinct roles (firefighter and incident commander) with 8 critical tasks identified for firefighter and 2 for the incident commander role. The second study investigated the physical demands of performing these critical tasks to the minimum acceptable performance requirement. Cardiorespiratory fitness standards were derived for those undertaking both firefighting and incident command roles. Following this, the validity and reliability of a firefighter simulation test was assessed to determine its appropriateness as a criterion test of operational fitness. Whilst there was a strong inverse correlation between the test completion time and cardiorespiratory fitness and the simulation was highly reliable, the error associated with the simulation suggests that it may not be suitable to use as a standalone fitness test and should be used in conjunction with gym-based cardiorespiratory fitness assessments. The final study assessed the sensitivity and specificity of common and replicable gymbased physical ability tests to predict firefighting performance in order to recommend strength and muscular endurance standards. Each of the gym-based physical ability tests and associated standards were effective at predicting effective firefighting performance.
Date of Award18 Jan 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJames Bilzon (Supervisor) & Keith Stokes (Supervisor)


  • Physical Employment Standards
  • Health
  • Fitness

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