Every firefighter needs an annual physical: how to make it happen and why

John Sullivan, deputy chief of the Worcester Fire Department/vice chair of the IAFC health and safety section, discusses why it's so important for firefighters to get physical exams each year.

The average age of a first heart attack for the general population is 66. For the fire service, it's 49. It's a sobering statistic that underscores the critical importance of annual exams for firefighters.

The presentation, “Every Firefighter Needs An Annual Physical: An Interactive Discussion on Why and How to Make It Happen” at NFPA's 2017 Conference & Expo in Boston, underscored the potentially life-saving difference annual exams can make by monitoring and/or detecting health issues as early as possible.

Strategies for ensuring that all firefighters get an annual exam, as well as the challenges for doing that, were addressed by David Fischler, JD, CFO, with 28 years of experience at Suffolk County (New York) Fire Rescue; Dr. Michael Hamrock, who practices internal medicine and addiction medicine at Elizabeth's Medical Center; and John Sullivan, deputy chief of the Worcester Fire Department/vice chair of the IAFC health and safety section.

Most fire departments require a physical in order for firefighters to get on the job, but it's not clear how many firefighters actually receive annual exams thereafter. According to Chief Sullivan, many factors play into whether a fire chief places a priority on annual exams.

While NFPA 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments, is considered the gold standard, Sullivan notes that not all fire departments have access to it.

With those limitations in mind, Dr. Hamrock says that primary care physicians need to be trained about firefighter health issues and the unique risks associated with the job so that they understand why firefighters need comprehensive physicals.

To learn more about the importance of annual exams for firefighters, listen to the full audio of this presentation.
NFPA Conference & Expo attendees and NFPA members also have full access to ALL the 2017 NFPA C&E education session audio & video files. Browse the full list of education sessions with attached audio/video.
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Susan McKelvey
Communications Manager

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