Leadership Influences on Firefighter Safety Culture

Posted: July 20, 2017

Organizational safety studies have shown the large impact that leadership has on safety culture. A safety-specific transformational leadership style in particular shows evidence of promoting positive safety outcomes.

firefighter discussion at the scene of a fire

A research team recently explored the differences between transformational and passive leadership styles in relationship to safety culture and safety behavior outcomes in a sample of firefighters. Their findings provide guidance for public administrators, fire service administrators, and company officers to strengthen firefighter safety outcomes.

Research takeaways

Company officers and fire department leaders can reinforce a safety culture through safety-specific transformational leadership tactics, such as:

When these actions are taken, firefighters believe their leaders are committed to safety. They respond by performing in a manner that enhances safety.

An additional takeaway relates to passive leaders. This kind of leader can have harmful effects on fire service safety culture and weaken safety performance. Passive leaders are generally those that fail to make decisions important to firefighter safety, fail to intervene in safety issues, and don’t take action until something goes wrong.

Smith, T. D., Eldridge, F., & Dejoy, D. M. (2016). Safety-specific transformational and passive leadership influences on firefighter safety climate perceptions and safety behavior outcomes. Safety Science, 86, 92-97. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2016.02.019

Learn more about this research

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

See also: National Safety Culture Change Initiative PDF 896 KB

This summary is for informational purposes only. More +
As such, the content does not reflect any official positions, policies, or guidelines on behalf of the sender, the U.S. Fire Administration, FEMA, DHS, nor any other federal agencies, departments or contracting entities. Similarly, this summary does not represent in any manner an official endorsement or relationship to any private or public companies, organizations/associations, or any authors or individuals cited or websites associated within the article.

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