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Fire Service Safety Culture

The culture around safety in any organization is a strong predictor of future near misses, injuries, and line of duty deaths. Safety climate is the measurable aspect of organizational safety culture and has been used by other industries such as healthcare, construction, and manufacturing to gauge and improve safety performance. Until recently the US fire service lacked a reliable and valid instrument to measure its specific safety climate. In 2012, FEMA funded Drexel University to develop an industry-specific firefighter safety culture survey.

This new survey tool provides fire departments with objective data to reduce injuries and fatalities in the fire service. Our research team is poised to provide technical assistance for survey administration and data analysis to fire departments who are interested in measuring their safety culture. All participating departments will receive customized reports of their safety climate scores, and where applicable, scores by individual stations within their department. As appropriate, fire departments will be able to benchmark their scores to departments in their FEMA region, and to similar departments throughout the U.S.

Interested fire departments who would like their safety culture measured will:

  1. Provide the total roster size from each firehouse
  2. Submit the total number of injuries per firehouse (for the last calendar year)
  3. Ensure that 60% of members from each firehouse complete the survey (available in either a pen/paper OR online format)

In return, participating fire departments will receive:

  1. Customized data on the safety culture within each firehouse and department-wide
  2. A report showing the relationship between safety culture and injury rates
  3. Comparative analysis of safety cultures within your FEMA region
  4. Objective evidence that can be used to inform safety related policy decisions
conceptual model

The model for this project presumes that climate-outcome relationships are mediated by safety behavior, as tested and supported in the meta-analytic study of Christian et al. (2009). Safety motivation is a person’s willingness to make an effort to perform safety behaviors. This is an antecedent to safety citizenship referring to proactive voluntary actions for improving safety above and beyond compliance with rules and procedures. Safety knowledge is a person’s understanding of how to do their job safely (e.g., knowing the emergency protocol for hazardous materials). This knowledge is an antecedent to safety compliance - performing the actual behavior (e.g., wearing PPE during hazardous material handling). This framework reflects the current evidence of the causal path that safety climate takes to impact safety outcomes.

If you would like more information, please e-mail, Andrea Davis,