Safety 101 - Lesson 16

NFPA 1521 Standard for Fire Department Safety Officer contains the minimum requirements for the assignment, duties and responsibilities of a health and safety officer and an incident safety officer for a fire department or other fire service...


NFPA 1521 Standard for Fire Department Safety Officer contains the minimum requirements for the assignment, duties and responsibilities of a health and safety officer and an incident safety officer for a fire department or other fire service organization.

As we read in an earlier lesson, there are two types of "safety officers" that can and should exist in your organization. One focuses on the overall health and safety program, while the other concentrates on incident safety. Depending on the size and scope of your organization, they can be one and the same person, or two different individuals. In either case, they must know and understand their role and responsibility in order to perform it to the needs of your organization and to provide value to your organization.

Employee Job Descriptions

A job is a collection of tasks and responsibilities that an employee is responsible to conduct. Jobs have titles. A task is a typically defined as a unit of work, that is, a set of activities needed to produce some result, e.g., vacuuming a carpet, writing a memo, sorting the mail, etc. Complex positions in the organization may include a large number of tasks, which are sometimes referred to as functions.

Job descriptions are lists of the general tasks, or functions, and responsibilities of a position. Typically, they also include to whom the position reports, specifications such as the qualifications needed by the person in the job, salary range for the position, etc. Job descriptions are usually developed by conducting a job analysis, which includes examining the tasks and sequences of tasks necessary to perform the job. The analysis looks at the areas of knowledge and skills needed by the job. Note that a role is the set of responsibilities or expected results associated with a job.

A job usually includes several roles. Typically, job descriptions are used especially for advertising to fill an open position, determining compensation and as a basis for performance reviews. Not everyone believes that job descriptions are highly useful, as some might point out numerous concerns about job descriptions that many other people have as well, including, e.g., that too often job descriptions are not worded in a manner such that the employee's performance can be measured, they end up serving as the basis for evaluation rather than performance, etc. However, the use of job descriptions is a widespread management practice and overall brings significant value to organizations.

Fire Department Safety Officer Job Duties

NFPA 1521 Standard for Fire Department Safety Officer contains the minimum requirements for the assignment, duties and responsibilities of a health and safety officer and an incident safety officer for a fire department or other fire service organization. This standard defines the basic duties of a safety officer which can include for either or both positions of health and safety officer and incident safety officer:

  • Position Assignment
  • Qualifications for the Position
  • Authority for the Position
  • Risk Management Role
  • Laws, Codes and Standards
  • Training and Education
  • Accident Prevention
  • Accident Investigation, Procedures, and Review
  • Records Management and Data Analysis
  • Apparatus and Equipment
  • Facility Inspection
  • Health Maintenance
  • Liaison
  • Occupational Health and Safety Committee
  • Infection Control
  • Critical Incident Stress Management
  • Post Incident Analysis
  • Incident Management System
  • Incident Scene Safety
  • Fire Suppression
  • Emergency Medical Service Operations
  • Hazardous Materials Operations
  • Special Operations

These must be compared to your organization's various roles and responsibilities, with the tasks validated and then integrated into one or more job descriptions in the organization.

Writing Job Descriptions

The cornerstone to any employment decision begins with job analysis. Job analysis is the most basic activity in human resource management. Accurate information on all jobs is necessary to efficiently direct and/or control the operations any organization.

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