Why don’t people do things they know they should? Whether it be eating fruits and vegetables, wearing a seat belt, or practicing safe procedures during risky operations, people show they know how to stay healthy and safe, but still make the opposite choice. In an American Journal of Health Behavior article the FIRST project at the Dornsife School of Public Health delved into the cultural aspects of firefighter safety. Supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to develop a culture of safety survey in the fire service, this sub-study used that data to examine firefighters’ decision-making around the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) on the job.
The study was conducted by the research team of Jennifer Taylor, PhD, MPH, CPPS and Andrea Davis, MPH (2012), CPH in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. Michael Maglio, MPH (2015) led the investigation during his first year practicum in Drexel’s MPH program. PPE is a usual requirement in hazardous work environments and is often provided and maintained by the employer. However, it is commonly known that firefighters refrain from wearing their PPE even when they know it protects them. FIRST analyzed data collected from focus groups and interviews with 123 firefighters from across the United States. The results posit that theories of social identity, influential situations, and safety behaviors play a significant role in the decision-making of workers in the fire service.
Firefighters’ spoke of how their identity as a firefighter, social and individual pressures, and avoiding certain situations challenged them to use their PPE properly and practice safe behavior. For example, when firefighters drive excessively fast to the scene of a fire due to the social and individual pressure to arrive first, they often make the decision to get dressed in their PPE en route in the truck without a seatbelt on, rather than at the station. This gets them to the scene seconds faster, but also puts them at risk of being ejected from the truck should they get into a motor vehicle accident. The investigators also examined what behaviors support safety, with firefighters’ telling stories of individual will and organizational support that assisted them in complying with safe behaviors. Such an instance is demonstrated by a firefighter who chose to keep wearing his self-contained breathing apparatus in a smoky environment, even though the rest of his crew encouraged him to remove it and assured him he did not need to continue using it. Using qualitative inquiry, the team was able to examine situations in which PPE use is both practiced and neglected while adding to our understanding of perceptions and social norms within the fire service.
This article was a collaborative effort of the FIRST project at Drexel with Dr. Cliff Scott of UNC Charlotte’s Department of Organizational Science and Communication Studies, and Dr. Joseph Allen of University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
Dr. Taylor trained in the field of injury prevention and control and uses its principles to address safety issues related high risk industries. Dr. Taylor received her Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management and her MPH in Health Services from the Boston University School of Public Health. Dr. Taylor is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health.
If you would like more information about this research, or to schedule an interview with Dr. Taylor, please contact Kim Menard, Director of Marketing and Communications at 267.359.6120; firstname.lastname@example.org.
FIRST Announces the Inaugural Class of FiRE Fellows
The Firefighter Injury Research and Safety Trends program (FIRST), led by Jennifer Taylor, PhD, MPH, CPPS, is proud to announce the inaugural Fire Service Injury Research, Epidemiology and Evaluation Fellowship. The 2016 recipients, known as FiRE Fellows, are Drexel colleagues from various Dornsife School of Public Health programs, departments, and stages of public health experience, including alumni. These Fellows have taken over the 6th floor of Nesbitt Hall as they collaborate throughout the summer on analysis of fire service data using both quantitative and qualitative methods.
The 2016 FiRE Fellow recipients are:
Anup Abraham, MPH(c) 2017, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Genevieve Adair, MPH(c) 2017, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health
Regan Murray, MPH(c) 2017, Department of Community Health and Prevention
Arjita Rai, MPH 2016, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health (alumna)
T.J. Risoli, MS(c) 2017, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Lauren Shepler, MPH 2015, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health (alumna)
Leon Villavicencio, MPH(c) 2017, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
FIRST is a research enterprise organized to support the United States fire and rescue service through objective data collection and analysis. In the absence of a nationwide comprehensive data system that documents injuries and risk factors to firefighters, the FIRST team created two models (both a department-level and state-level) resulting in robust master data systems. FiRE Fellows will analyze data from master injury data systems created by FIRST for the Philadelphia Fire Department, Boston Fire Department, and the State of Florida. The 12-week fellowship is supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighter Grants Research & Development program.
Fellows are being trained in injury nomenclature, classification matrices, national injury data systems, exploratory data analyses, advanced statistical analyses, and community partner stewardship.
The fellows are mentored by the following faculty: Dr. Jennifer A. Taylor, Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health; Dr. Loni Tabb, Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics; Ms. Shannon Widman MPH (2010), and Ms. Andrea Davis MPH (2012), CPH.
For more information please contact Kim Menard, Director of Marketing and Communications at 267.359.6120; email@example.com