‘Culture of safety’ needed to reduce LODDs

‘Culture of safety’needed to reduce LODDs

8 February 2008

published by www.firerescue1.com

USA — Fire chiefs should work to create a departmentculture of safety, rather than risk, to reduce LODDs, according to a new report.

The study by Oklahoma State University features best practices based on researchconducted over the last two years. It was funded by the National FallenFirefighters Foundation and the Public Entity Risk Institute.

The document promotes the idea that leadership and management can reduce risksto firefighters. “The current U.S. fire service culture must change andplace a higher value on personnel safety in order to achieve the goal ofreducing firefighter deaths and injuries,” it said. “This shift in valuescan only be achieved through leadership.”

The report recommends best practices culled from U.S. and UK expert panels andNIOSH reports for minimizing risk. These range from ensuring that allfirefighters are equipped with properly functioning radios, to appointing anincident safety officer to widely disseminating analysis of previous safetyevents. The recommendations address specific areas such as structure fires,vehicle safety, wildland firefighting and training.

The findings encourage fire chiefs to take steps before incidents occur toensure that employees are aware of risks and best practices for safety. Thereport also provides concrete examples of what company officers can say and doto encourage this behavior.

Throughout, the study stresses the role of the company officer and seeks tointroduce the concept of “organizational safety culture” to theAmerican fire service. “Our research shows that the company officer playsTHE critical role in defining on a day-to-day basis the nature of theorganizational safety culture in a fire department,” the study said.

In its conclusion, the study said fire departments face a tough task in changingthe culture of both itself and its members.

“Those who choose to embark on the effort to change the identity of theirorganization, and to begin to change the identity of the fire service, will facea highly emotional and defensive response,” it said.

“They will have to rely on the same bravery and courage that they havedemonstrated on the fireground in order to survive the challenges involved in atransformational change of identity in the fire service.”

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