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Fitness guidelines for Firefighters called into question

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Fire Service officers on the front lines are charged with saving our lives.
But what guidelines exist to make sure the people tasked with keeping us safe are healthy enough to do so? Even some members of the service say there’s not enough.

Cayman 27’s Kevin Morales heard from one Fire Service employee — who asked to remain anonymous over concerns for his job says — who says Cayman falls short when it comes to ensuring the men charged with saving lives are fit enough to do so.

“The service has no standards in place,” according to a message sent by the employee. “Trust me, it isn’t comprehensive and no records or fitness analysis is carried out on front line staff. There is no requirement in terms of fitness in the department.”

Through an FOI, Cayman 27 requested health and fitness guidelines for Cayman’s Fire Services employees. We were sent three documents (attached below) — the Cayman Islands Airports Authority Safety Management System Manual, the Gerrard Smith International Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting Service Operational Manual and the Owen Roberts International Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting Service Operational Manual.

The documents Cayman 27 received make no mention of them of Fire Service employees who don’t work at the airports and our source says there are no health and safety guidelines at all for those officers.

“Yes, that document is just for the aerodrome side,” he writes.

Only looking at those stationed at the Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac airports there is one section outlining fire fighters’ fitness.

It reads they must be “medically fit and capable of their duties by an HSA approved health examiner. Personnel must pass an assessment every five years up to the year 40, every two years from 41 to 50 years of age and every year for officers older than 50.”

“That is only a document,” our source writes. “Nothing is enforced. Trust me, we don’t have annual checks. Guys can get as big as they want.”

According to the exam form provided to us, a body-mass index of greater than 30, impaired vision, impaired hearing or a significant disability or illness or lung issues are cause to consider an officer unfit.

But the officer we spoke to says that’s not reality.
“We don’t do comprehensive medical checks — cancer, diabetes, obesity — it doesn’t matter.

“More than half of our services fails it due to being overweight.”

US professional standards call for a baseline exam performed by a physician who fully understands the demands of the job, followed by an annual medical evaluations that provide for specific measurement parameters for all firefighters.
“It is very important for all involved,” our source writes. “A lot of guys are becoming non-operational.”

He hopes by addressing the issue, those with the power to change policy will do so.

Fire Services Chief David Hails says he needs to meet with the FOI officer before commenting on the matter. The Home Affairs Ministry did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Cayman 27 also asked for the number of employees who have failed fitness tests over the last five years. We’re waiting to hear back from the service’s FOI office.

About the author

Kevin Morales

Kevin Morales

Cayman 27 News Director Kevin Morales is an award-winning journalist with more than 12 years of experience. Kevin is a Milwaukee, Wis., native. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2005 from the University of Minnesota. He's a proud father and a loyal fan of the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks and U of M Golden Gophers.

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