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Using a risk management approach to reduce firefighter injuries

This article highlights a recent study on the implementation of a risk management approach to mitigate firefighter injury risk.

Firefighting is an occupation that poses many hazards. In 2016, over 62,000 firefighters were injured while on duty. Thirty-nine percent of those injuries occurred on the fireground.1

Risk management is increasingly seen in many occupations as a proactive approach to mitigating potential injury risks. However, research on implementing safety interventions in the fire service is limited. Recently, a team of researchers set out to see how a risk management approach might be successfully implemented by firefighters.

A key principle of the approach was that the firefighters themselves identified the risks and developed solutions to mitigate them. Proactive risk management is required by regulation in the United Kingdom’s fire service. Although not required in the United States, the research team believed that even a voluntary implementation would bring great benefit.

Research takeaways

  • Leaders must inform firefighters about the latest tools and techniques that can keep them safe and healthy. If firefighters are not made aware of new equipment or a safer practice or policy, they cannot alter their behavior.
  • Clear and effective signage is highly effective for reinforcing positive, safety-conscious behavior change.
  • Leaders of the risk management process must educate everyone, especially new recruits, on the risk management program and its priorities.
  • Effective reminders and messages that succeed in changing behavior are often grounded in models of behavioral change theory.
  • Reach out to your local university or health department to find staff knowledgeable in behavioral sciences and/or health communications. Their expertise is very valuable when developing evidence- and theory-based interventions and messaging.

Learn more about this research

The research article is available through our library by contacting netclrc@fema.dhs.gov. Interested readers may be able to access the article through their local library or through the publisher’s website.

1Source: National Fire Protection Association

2 Pollack, K. M., Poplin, G. S., Griffin, S., Peate, W., Nash, V., Nied, E., . . . Burgess, J. L. (2017). Implementing risk management to reduce injuries in the U.S. Fire Service. Journal of Safety Research, 60, 21-27. doi:10.1016/j.jsr.2016.11.003

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