Safety of Firefighters while Driving
How it works
What are our goals? How can we determine whether we are being reactive or proactive with our departmental goals? Are we contributing to fewer line-of-duty deaths (LODDs) or injuries?
For the purposes of my research paper, I will focus on the non-usage of safety belt restraints while en route to a call or returning from one. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides statistics on their website concerning seat belt usage. This data is used on a national level, showing a usage rate of 90.
1 percent, but nearly 27.5 million people still don’t buckle up. A staggering statistic is that 48% of the passengers in said vehicles were killed due to the lack of restraints. Therefore, our departmental goal is to educate our firefighters with the facts to understand that we are also in a vehicle, albeit a much larger one compared to most, which can cause more harm and damage to life and property. We need to examine the facts provided by NIOSH and view their reports detailing the causes of death during an accident in a fire apparatus, thereby ensuring that our SOPs on seat belt use are strictly enforced in the department. It is crucial to provide not only verbal warnings within the department about seat belt safety but also establish written directives in the form of an SOP.
NIOSH reports: ‘A firefighter was responding in a command vehicle to a report of a fully involved residence. During the response, the firefighter passed traffic on the left. The wheels of his vehicle left the roadway and struck a driveway or culvert. The command vehicle rolled several times, and the firefighter was ejected. He was pronounced dead at the scene.’
By providing your audience with statistical information, they can comprehend the severity and importance of wearing a seat belt when riding in an emergency vehicle.
How do we manage change in our department and what resources do we have available? As mentioned in our class book’s Chapter 1 Defining a Culture Change, ‘Initiative 1 calls for the incorporation of leadership, management, and supervision in adopting a safety culture.’ To manage change and make our departments understand the importance of wearing a safety restraint, we need to look at the overall challenge. This involves effectively communicating with the firefighters and presenting this as an opportunity for growth in the sphere of safety.
As leaders, it is incumbent on us to communicate the facts and emphasize the economic impact. Neglecting the use of safety restraints in an accident will have huge consequences, such as the loss of jobs due to lawsuits and potential budget cuts that the department may be forced to implement. We need to effectively present the consequences of failing to do the right thing. Recovery from significant financial loss due to negligence can take a department years.
Social impacts come in many forms. For a department, they will be received as new personnel are hired. The generation gap between personnel can cause problems, as can the differing work ethics these generations bring. The diversity present in today’s society leads to generational differences among firefighters and department personnel.
Political impacts will affect us as leaders, and we need to understand the importance of who is driving certain policies. Most likely, everyone is pro-safety, so we need to understand how to be transparent with our members and effectively communicate the importance of safety to receive grants and other departmental funds. In this way, we as leaders can get our message across to the department.
Technological impacts, considered breakthroughs in today’s society, have provided us with far more advanced equipment to remind us or to keep record of what is happening on a daily basis. Technology forces us to follow the rules and do what is right. Having a recorder that logs if safety restraints are being worn in an apparatus will force all personnel to wear them and it will eventually become muscle memory.
Our safety culture in the fire service faces challenges on a daily basis. The most important element is that we teach and show our firefighters the importance of programs, our involvement, and commitment as a group. However, we have to individually take accountability before we can hold our supervisors, peers, and organization fully responsible. One of many available programs is the Everyone Goes Home (EGH) campaign, which focuses on ‘reducing firefighter fatalities’. Once the core group of firefighters adapt to a safety culture, lives will be preserved while fighting structure fires.
The first step in the process would begin with organizational commitment by establishing safety as the Center of Gravity (COG). This can be achieved by being actively involved through mandatory safety training and policies reflecting the values established around safety, and incorporating the following initiatives: 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 16.
Management involvement would be the second step of the process. Management would have to be present during safety seminars, training, and research. This action would display accountability on their part. It is also recommended that management needs to become constructive and creative in implementing new programs.