Development and test of a firefighter safety climate model
Smith, Todd David
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Each year more than 100 firefighters die in the line of duty and over 80,000 are injured. Despite advances in technology, protective equipment, medical care and safety legislation, there has been no sustained improvement in the number of fatalities during the past 25 years. Today, there is a growing body of research linking safety climate to reduced injury, where the effects of safety climate on injury are partially mediated through safety behaviors. The purpose of this study was to develop and test a model linking perceptions of safety climate, safety behaviors and injury within firefighters. Data were collected from 398 professional firefighters in Georgia. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to test the model and the proposed relationships. The results indicated that safety climate, as a higher order factor, was composed of four factors including safety communication, management commitment to safety, safety programs/policies and supervisor support for safety. An examination of the relationships associated with safety climate illustrated that both safety compliance behaviors and safety citizenship behaviors were significantly, positively associated with safety climate. With regard to injury, both safety compliance behavior (B = -5.02, p=0.00) and safety citizenship behavior (B = -3.21, p=0.00) were deemed protective when controlling for the other factors. It was determined that for each incremental increase in safety compliance behavior, there was a 99% reduction in injury (RR = 0.00662) and for each incremental increase in safety citizenship behavior, there was a 96% (RR = 0.04) reduction in injury. Safety climate relations to injury were interesting, but somewhat ambiguous. Safety climate significantly predicted membership in the “always zero” group. Thus, the higher the safety climate score, the more likely the firefighter is a member of the “always zero” group. But, for those not in the “always zero” group, the relationship between safety climate and injury was positive. This result was not completely surprising as direct relationships between safety climate and injury have been insignificant and have been opposite to predictions in studies using retrospective data. The issues of non-significance and unexpected positive relationships may be attributed to the issue of reverse causation.