Due to the inherent risk of our jobs, firefighters receive a great deal of training about safety. However, we often choose to purposefully ignore some of that training in an effort to cut corners, whether because of complacency with everyday tasks or because our confidence misleads us into thinking we're skilled enough to avoid the risk.
As company officers and leaders, our priority should be to create a culture of safety in our departments rather than viewing basic safety practices as a nuisance we must do to meet compliance standards. How many little safety practices do you or your firefighters ignore regularly? Do your apparatus operators drive a little too fast to ensure a quick response time? Are your firefighters wearing work gloves instead of structural gloves on small incidents?
Departmental culture is generally defined as a way of thinking, behaving and believing that members of an organization have in common. To achieve a true culture of safety, officers must addresses the real and underlying causes of the gap in safety measures. Do you suffer from any pitfalls of poor safety responsibility? Do you or the officers around you ever:
- Show more concern for not upsetting others than for fixing problems?
- Feel powerless and see safety as a have-to, not a want-to?
- Lack interest, avoid making commitments and shift responsibility to others?
Start now by taking a comprehensive look at the perceived issues, goals and outcomes for creating a safety culture. Examine the existing culture, the preferred culture and the gap in between. Define what the motivational drivers are that will have the most effective impact on building a culture of safety. Implement interventions that move your department towards that preferred safety culture.
We can start at the company-officer level, embracing a culture of safety by putting in place the knowledge and processes that reduce the likelihood of workplace and fireground injuries and accidents. We can also stress firefighter wellbeing and work toward improving it for all department members. By doing so, we’ll continue to focus on our true purpose of providing excellent fire and emergency service to our communities.