Background Historically, motor vehicle incidents account for between one-fifth to one-third of all firefighter fatalities in the United States. Non-use of seat belts has resulted in many of these fatalities. Bolstering the use of seat belts is a major goal of the emergency services field.
Methods Data were collected from 208 career firefighters working for a city fire department in the southeastern United States. Preliminary analyses assessed seat belt use. Structural equation modelling was then used to assess the relationships between safety climate and seat belt use.
Results In our sample, 78.7% indicated they almost always wear their seat belt when riding in fire apparatus or other emergency vehicles. 17.4% indicated they often wear their seat belt and 3.4% reported that they sometimes use their seat belt. Use did not significantly differ between varying age groups, race, marital status, education level, years of fire service work or rank. A posited model was examined. Positive perceptions of workgroup safety climate were positively associated with seat belt use. Organisational level safety climate did not have a significant relationship with seat belt use, but did positively influence workgroup safety climate perceptions.
Conclusions Safety climate has been associated with safety compliance and participation behaviours, but no work has specifically examined the impact of safety climate on seat belt use in firefighters. This study shows that work group level safety climate is a significant predictor of seat belt use (p < 0.01). Companies within fire departments can bolster safety climate with supportive supervisors and by enhancing group cohesion among firefighters and between firefighters and company officers. When firefighters perceive these positive factors, they are more likely to use seat belts, which enhances firefighter vehicle incident survival rates.
- firefighter injury
- firefighter fatality
- safety climate
- seat belt
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