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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 22(6)

Safety climate in the US federal wildland fire management community: influences of organisational, environmental, group and individual characteristics

Anne E. Black A C and Brooke Baldauf McBride B

A Human Factors & Risk Management Research, Development and Application, Rocky Mountain Research Station, 800 East Beckwith Avenue, Missoula, MT 59801, USA.
B College of Forestry and Conservation, The University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.
C Corresponding author. Email: aeblack@fs.fed.us

International Journal of Wildland Fire 22(6) 850-861 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF12154
Submitted: 8 August 2012  Accepted: 17 January 2013   Published: 6 May 2013

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This study examined the effects of organisational, environmental, group and individual characteristics on five components of safety climate (High Reliability Organising Practices, Leadership, Group Culture, Learning Orientation and Mission Clarity) in the US federal wildland fire management community. Of particular interest were differences between perceptions based on respondents’ Incident Position. Those in supervisory positions at the ground level (Type 1 Firefighters) and those at the top (Incident Commanders and operational leads) scored significantly higher than did mid-level supervisors (Single Resource, Division Supervisors, Task Force and Strike Team Leads). This was particularly the case for High Reliability Organising Practices, which measure the degree of communication among and between units, and Group Culture, which measures the tightness of a group and the degree of psychological safety felt by members. Both components directly affect the amount and type of information flowing within and between incident units. That the critical middle links in incident organisation perceive these essential safety-related functions to be significantly lower than do individuals at other levels provides a startling empirical insight into, and powerful leverage for further improving, incident operations and resulting safety outcomes.

Additional keywords: high reliability organisation (HRO), incident, operations, safety culture.


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