The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Physical Fitness in Public Safety

Reference Number: MTAS-1210
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: October 10, 2017
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Cities are not required by federal or state laws to administer pre-employment medical examinations or physical ability tests for firefighters or police officers. Even the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Respiratory Protection Standard does not require a complete medical examination for firefighters, but does require a medical screening and fit test to determine if a firefighter can wear a respirator. Cities may administer medical examinations or physical ability tests so long as the tests do not have an adverse impact on a protected class (42 U.S.C., Section 2000 e-(h)). A protected class would be persons protected by the Federal Civil Rights Act by virtue of their age, race, color, religion, sex, or national origin or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) develops consensus standards relating to aspects of the fire service. These consensus standards are not law but they are a nationally recognized standard that outline best practices. More specifically, NFPA 1582 Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments sets a framework for pre-hire and incumbent members of the fire service.

NFPA 1582 Chapter I of the standard addresses the administration of the standard. Chapter I specifies that this standard is applicable to public, governmental, military, private, and industrial fire department organizations providing rescue, fire suppression, emergency medical services, hazardous materials mitigation, special operations, and other emergency services.

NFPA 1582 Chapter 6 of the standard addresses Medical Evaluations of Candidates. The standard specifies that a medical evaluation of a candidate shall be conducted prior to the candidate being placed in training programs or fire department emergency response activities.

NFPA 1582 Chapter 7 of the standard addresses the Occupational Medical Evaluation of Members (incumbent). The standard specifies that medical evaluations shall be conducted as a baseline for surveillance and annually thereafter.

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