*Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that state statutes already prevented smoking a year before hiring of firefighters, and that the newly-signed bill is focused on records retention.
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed multiple bills into law on Thursday, one of which makes changes to the way physical exam records for Florida officers and firefighters are kept.
Going forward, House Bill 453 makes it so Florida’s first responders and law enforcement officers will have to be medically cleared before serving the public, and that the records are kept for five years after any separation from a fire department.
The requirement includes correctional officers in the state, as well. Under the newly signed law, all firefighters and officers must “undergo a pre-employment physical examination,” and must undergo additional medical exam if previous checks “failed to reveal any evidence of tuberculosis, heart disease, or hypertension.”
Legislative analysis of the bill says it makes changes to record-keeping practices for firefighters in the state.
The analysis included details of the enrollment process for firefighting training courses, which are set by state statute 633.412.
Those requirements include:
- Be a high school graduate or the equivalent;
- Not have been convicted of specified crimes;
- Submit his or her fingerprints to be processed at the state and national level;
- Have a good moral character;
- Be a nonuser of tobacco or tobacco products for at least one year immediately prior to his or her application
- Be in good physical condition as determined by a medical examination given by a physician, surgeon, or physician assistant; an osteopathic physician, surgeon, or physician assistant; or an advanced practice registered nurse
Starting July 1, when the bill takes effect, pre-employment physical exam records must be maintained by the employing fire department for at least five years after they leave the employing fire service provider.
Medical professionals will also be required to certify potential firefighters are “medically fit to engage in firefighting training and does not have any pre-existing or current condition, illness, injury, or deficiency.” However, analysis notes that HB 453 does not includes screening requirements for tuberculosis, heart disease, or hypertension.”
“If the employing fire service provider fails to maintain the records,” HB 453 says it will be “presumed that the employee has met the requirements” for work, set by current state statutes.
Analysis of the bill also focused on how it may change workers’ compensation.
Specifically, it said that “law enforcement, correctional, or correctional probation officer” who stops treatment prescribed by their doctors, and by doing so experiences “a significant aggravation of the disease or disability or need for medical treatment,” was “previously compensated” for that disease or condition and left the treatment, leading to disability, or if a patient fails to make a benefits claim within 180 days of leaving employment, they will not be open to compensation through workers’ benefits.
However, the analysis said “firefighters are not subject to the exclusion for prior treatment or compensation and they are not covered by the claim-filing deadline that lets a law enforcement officer, correctional officer or correctional probation officer file a claim up to 180 days after leaving the employment.”
Additionally, firefighters who suffer from tuberculosis, heart disease, or hypertension will be legally required to inform their employer of the injury or condition within 90 days of “initial manifestation” or 90 days after the firefighter in question “obtains a medical opinion that the injury” is due to their work.