A strength test which has been a barrier for prospective female firefighters has been changed after ladders were found to be lighter than thought

By John Wimperis - Local Democracy Reporter

12th Oct 2022 | Local News

A number of firefighters across Bristol and Somerset may have failed a fitness test to be eligible to join the fire service after an error in stating the correct weight of their ladders.

Avon Fire & Rescue is amending the strength test in their recruitment process after discovering their ladders are 17kg lighter than thought.

In the strength test, prospective firefighters must successfully shoulder press 35kg before they can join the service. This has been a barrier to some female candidates.

HR manager Karen Shiel stated that even when a high proportion of applicants were female, many would go on to fail the 35kg shoulder press.

Since discovering their ladders actually weigh 96kg, not 113kg as previously stated by their supplier, the fire service is changing the strength test to a 30kg shoulder press with immediate effect.

Ms Shiel said: "The ladder lift is carried out by four firefighters and they need to be able to lift the ladder above their heads to stow it onto the top of the fire appliance. The shoulder press test used within the selection process is designed to replicate this lift to ensure the candidate can safely lift the weight required.

"There are additional factors which are taken into account, including the potential for firefighters to be fatigued at the end of an operational incident and allowance for the different heights of each of the Firefighters conducting the lift, as this affects the even weight distribution of the ladder when it is lifted.

"Following extensive research it has been agreed that the weight within the selection tests can be reduced from 35kg to 30kg with immediate effect. The same test is applied to all candidates."

Ms Shiel told the Avon Fire Authority's People and Culture Committee: "It is not about lowering standards, it is making sure that we've got a good valid occupational test."

She added that the fire service worked with people who had failed in previous recruitment campaigns to help them meet the standard for the next campaign, and that they would be looking at contacting female candidates who had previously failed the strength test.


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