Safety Information and Resources
The high level of firefighter injuries and fatalities continues to be a significant problem for local government. The purpose of this dissertation is to determine whether the construct of organizational culture can be applied within the context of municipal fire service organizations in the United States as a means for the assessment and analysis of safety culture. To achieve this purpose, a conceptual model of safety culture is developed along with the variables and instruments necessary to measure safety culture in fire service organizations. Three hypotheses about the nature of the relationships among the variables are tested primarily through multiple regression, factor analysis, and analysis of variance.
Results of the analysis of the data collected from three municipal fire department’s supports the proposition that the construct of safety culture can be used to analyze and assess safety culture in fire service organizations. The instruments designed to measure the variables of safety culture are shown to be valid and reliable and the results demonstrate that the three hypotheses that predict the nature and characteristics of the relationship among the variables of safety culture are supported. Specifically, the data support the hypothesis that the two independent variables (Safety Management Systems and Safety Related Behaviors) predict a significant amount of variance in the dependent variable (Organizational Safety Climate). In addition, the data support the hypotheses that the level and strength of scores for all three variables of Safety Culture vary across categories of Job Function and Years of Service.
Perceptions of risk and safety are influenced by individual, social and organizational factors. In the fire service, ndividual and social factors are those that operate at the crew or company level. Organizational factors are those that relate to the ability of fire service organizations to effectively manage safety. Extensive research has been
conducted in other high-risk occupations on the factors that influence individual and social perceptions of risk and the consequences that these factors have on the normalization of risk. In addition, while other high risk occupations and fire service organizations in other countries have developed very effective safety management systems, the US fire service does not have an institutionalized methodology for managing safety. The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief overview of the individual, social and organizational factors that result in the normalization of risk, the
consequences of the normalization of risk in terms of organizational performance, and to present a model for improving safety performance in the fire service.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive model of safety culture for the US
Design/methodology/approach – Based upon a modified version of Cooper’s Reciprocal
Determinism Model, the research uses two sets of exogenous variables, labeled Safety Management
System and Safety Related Behaviors, to explain a dependent variable called Organizational Safety
Climate. The model has been used successfully to improve safety performance in other high risk, high
performance organizations. Using survey data collected from over 1,000 firefighters in three mediumsized US municipalities, the theoretical model is tested.
Findings – Results from multiple regression analyses provide strong support for the hypothesis that
individual perceptions of safety management and safety behavior predict individual perceptions of
safety climate, both at the “fire service” organizational level and at the individual department level.
Research limitations/implications – Limitations of the study include a cross-sectional design, the
use of self-reported perceptions for the variables, and the fact that the three mid-sized US fire
departments from which data were gathered self-selected to participate in the study.
Practical implications – A practical feature of the theoretical model tested is the ability to create
“safety report cards” for each of the 12 dimensions that define the three variables used in the study.
Social implications – This model holds the promise of reducing firefighter injuries and deaths by
identifying managerial and behavioral safety improvement areas within US fire departments.
Originality/value – To the authors’ knowledge, this research represents the first attempt to both
identify and test empirically a safety culture model for the US fire service.
Keywords United States of America, Fire services, Occupational health and safety, Injuries,
Death rate, US fire service, Firefighter injury, Fatality rates, Organizational safety culture