Getting to the Frontline: Elements of a Firefighter Physical Exam

Getting to the Frontline: Elements of a Firefighter Physical Exam

Volunteer and paid firefighters have an incredibly demanding job that requires physically and mentally challenging tasks under high-stress conditions.

In fact, there is an estimated 65,000 firefighter injuries from the line of duty each year with the following leading cause of fireground injuries:

  • Strains, sprains, or muscular pain (41 percent)
  • Overexertion or strain (25 percent)
  • Falls, jumps, slips, or trips (24 percent)
  • Wounds, cuts, bleeding, or bruising (15 percent)
  • Fire or chemical burns (6 percent)

This is why they must undergo a comprehensive firefighter physical exam that should meet NFPA 1582 requirements and OSHA standards.

So, what should you expect?

Firefighter physical and medical exam requirements

NFPA 1582 Requirements

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers a standard on comprehensive occupational medical program for fire departments and are considered appropriate for all types of firefighters: career, volunteer, industrial, full-time and part-time firefighters.

It contains a list of requirements for physical examinations and medical testing that should be done for pre-employment and annually.

Under NFPA 1582, firefighter should receive:

  • Physical exam that measures:
    • Aerobic capacity
    • Body composition
    • Grip/leg/and arm strength
    • Muscular endurance, and
    • Flexibility
  • Medical exam that includes:
    • Audiometric exam
    • Vision testing
    • Pulmonary function test
    • Chest X-ray
    • Urinalysis
    • Blood sample analysis
    • Infectious disease screening
    • EKG
    • Cancer screening

OSHA Requirements

Since firefighters are required to wear respirators, they are required to have a respirator fit test periodically.

Firefighter physical exam expectations at CNS Occupational Medicine

CNS Occupational Medicine offers firefighter pre-employment physicals, drug test, audiogram, physical ability tests (PAT), respirator fit tests, pulmonary function tests (PFT), chest x-rays, and more.

Physical Abilities Test (PAT)

The PAT is a custom-built test for your employee’s needs and specific to the job functions that they perform, covering things such as strength, balance, range of motion, and a number of other essential functions.

This can consist of:

  • Lift tests
  • Muscular Tension Tests for pushing, pulling
  • Muscular Power Tests to overcome some initial resistance
  • Muscular Endurance Tests involving repetitions of tool use
  • Cardiovascular Endurance Tests to assess aerobic capacity
  • Flexibility Tests where bending, twisting, stretching, or reaching is important
  • Balance Tests in which stability of body position is difficult to maintain

Respirator Physical and Fit Test

Our Occupational Medicine Team follows a specific process for every employee that is tested, including a respirator fit test 

  • Prior to any employee evaluation, employers are required to complete an information evaluation form on each employee 
  • The employee will be evaluated using the mandatory OSHA “Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire” 
  • When an employee is medically cleared to wear a respirator, the PLHCP clinician will provide the employee and employer with a written medical opinion for respirator use 
  • After being medical cleared for respirator use, the employee may undergo a respirator fit test 

Schedule your respirator physical, medical exam, and fit test today. 

For other specialty tests, we can provide referrals as needed.

All examinations are performed by or under the supervision of a licensed physician at our office locations, mobile units, or staffed onsite.

For more information, contact them at 800.551.9816 or

Please be advised that all articles, blogs and written material are not intended to replace the advice of a physician.

Questions about Occupational Healthcare or our Mobile Health Clinics?

Our Occupational Healthcare Specialists are here to help!

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