Safety 101 - Lesson 6

So now you are ready. You are convinced that there are incentives and value in the development and implementation of a safety program for your emergency service organization. The only challenge is - what does the plan include and how do you get started? Never fear. There have been many before you and the concepts are well established. Even those of you who have a program in place will benefit from this review and comparison to your current plan.

The National Safety Council further advocates the development of a safety organization. These elements or principles are the same in any industry and in any organization large or small. While there may be variations, the basic components are consistent. The basic elements of a safety organization include:

  • I. Management Leadership - including assumption of responsibility and declaration of policy.
  • II. Assignment of Responsibility - to operating officials, safety directors, supervisors and committees.
  • III. Maintenance of Safe Working Conditions - inspections, engineering revisions, purchasing, supervision.
  • IV. Establishment of Safety Training - for supervisors and workers.
  • V. An Accident Record System - accident analysis, reports on injuries, measurements of results.
  • VI. Medical and First Aid Systems - placement examinations, treatment of injuries, first aid services, periodic health examinations.
  • VII. Acceptance of Personal Responsibility by Employees - training, and maintenance of interest

These programmatic components generally assure that objectives are established for the program, written policies are developed, implemented and maintained, and control practices are in place. The objectives of the program will include pre-loss objectives including economy of operations, tolerable uncertainty, legality, and humanitarian conduct. Post-loss objectives would include survival, continuity of operations, profitability, stability of earnings, humanitarian conduct, and growth. It is important to watch for conflict of objectives and determine what should be done if objectives are achieved and how financial risk is managed. At the end of the day, these objectives help you establish what you want to accomplish through your safety program - what level of reduction of losses - and how you will achieve that goal.

When considering the definition of authority, responsibility and reporting relationships, it must be remembered that too many bosses/people in control create conflict. Organize the program to limit the number of persons in charge, but be flexible, as the program and responsibilities must change as the size and complexity of the organization changes.

Controls within the program need to be established by standards and performance monitoring. The goals can be benchmarked by either:

  • Results standards which are achievement based, e.g. reduce losses by 10 percent, or
  • Activity standards such as effort, e.g. attend a class. In either situation it is important to take corrective action, otherwise the control process won't be successful.

By comparison, the National Fire Protection Associations, Standard 1500, Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program has major safety program components with numerous sub-components identified. These major captions include the following:

  • Organization
  • Risk Management Plan
  • Safety and Health Policy
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Occupational Safety and Health Committee
  • Recordkeeping
  • Safety and Health Officer
  • Laws, Codes and Standards
  • Training and Education
  • Accident Prevention
  • Accident Investigation, Procedures, and Review
  • Records Management and Data Analysis
  • Health Maintenance
  • Liaison
  • Occupational Safety and Health Officer
  • Infection Control
  • Fire Apparatus, Equipment and Driver/Operators
  • Protective Clothing and Protective Equipment
  • Emergency Operations
  • Facility Inspection and Safety
  • Medical and Physical Requirements
  • Member Assistance and Wellness Programs
  • Critical Incident Stress Program
  • Post Incident Analysis

As you can see, there is considerable overlap with generic industry safety programs. It is recommended that you evaluate these components and see which items affect your organization and build a safety program that reflects consideration of the exposures, requirements, and loss potential. If the general industry can reduce their accident and loss rates, why can't emergency services?

Establishing a safety or loss control program must be done in a logical, step by step procedure, comparable to constructing a house. The foundation must be laid before the walls and roof can be erected. The foundation of a safety program must be sound and support the elements that make up the program. If not, the program will eventually weaken and collapse.

Lesson #6

These safety program components make perfect sense for volunteer, combination and career departments, and have been successful for many years in both the fire service and general industry. We only have to apply them at all levels of the organization to be effective in managing our losses.

Safety 101 - A new series from the technical and administrative perspective, designed to help you reduce emergency responder injuries, illnesses, property loss and death!


Dr. William F. Jenaway, CSP, CFO, CFPS is Executive Vice President of VFIS and has over 30 years experience in Safety and Risk Management, in the insurance industry. Bill is also an adjunct professor in Risk Analysis in the Graduate School at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. He was named "Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year" as Chief of the King of Prussia (PA) Volunteer Fire Company, and is the author the text Emergency Service Risk Management.