(FiveNation.com)- A report shows that a bill introduced in the Connecticut State Assembly would exempt women from the Candidate Physical Ability Test, a timed obstacle course used by fire departments nationwide. To pass the test, candidates must perform strenuous physical tasks while wearing a 50-pound vest; only 10 to 15 percent of women pass. The purpose is to weed out those incapable of navigating a fire while wearing heavy equipment.
Democrats in Connecticut are working to reduce the physical fitness requirements for female firefighters, believing lower standards will promote diversity.
The bill has been referred to the committee on public safety in the state legislature, which has not yet scheduled hearings on the law.
According to the bill’s text, the law would offer women an alternative test based on revised physical standards to ensure female candidates qualify for firefighter positions.
According to the report, Frank Ricci, a retired firefighter and former president of the New Haven firefighters union, believes this attempt to socially engineer positions in public safety will only endanger the public.
Some firefighters, including women who have risen through the ranks of their departments without workarounds, argue that the bill destroys merit-based hiring and puts Connecticut residents in danger.
In contrast to the military, where uniforms and equipment are gender-specific, all firefighters wear the same gear, weighing at least 59 pounds, nine pounds more than the vest used for testing. That does not include the weight of ladders, hoses, or other firefighters, who must occasionally carry incapacitated coworkers on their shoulders.
According to DiNapoli, in addition to endangering lives, critics assert that the law will exacerbate the widespread belief among male firefighters that women are unfit for the job. Men have always dominated fire departments; approximately 91% of firefighters are male.
The report reveals that a retired Chicago female firefighter remarked that it was already difficult for women in the fire service because you must constantly prove your value, so how can you demonstrate your worth if you do not take the same test as the men?
Fire departments have been pressured to eliminate written and physical tests, mainly when women perform poorly on them.