We understand that being in the busiest company in the County has its effects on most workers. The service is physically, emotionally and psychologically challenging and with the added pressure of performing safely and effectively under significant time constraints, it is too much for any firefighter. The difficult work conditions at the Silver Hill Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad is leading to burnout among some workers.
Burnout is generally defined as a psychological response to chronic work stress and is recognized as having three major components:
- Disengagement or withdrawal from workplace and co-workers.
- Cynicism or unsympathetic attitude towards the people and the goals they serve.
Study results clearly showed that burnout leads to diminished safety behaviors in firefighters. It should be considered a legitimate safety concern within the PGFD. Work stress and work-family conflict are not directly linked to bad safety practices. They can, however lead to burnout over time, which is the major predictor of unsafe work practices. When firefighters are burned out, they are less likely to voice their concerns, to use PPE properly, and to perform their work in a routinely safe manner.
Suggested safety interventions that are needed.
The research team had these recommendations for fire department leaders to prevent burnout and promote safe behaviors:
Place an emphasis on a safety conscious transformational style of leadership. This will counter many of the stressors that lead to burnout. This style of leadership also promotes fairness and equity and it builds engagement.
Require supervisors to provide rest and rehabilitation during firefighting operations, and allow for post-event rest and recovery.
Promote health and wellness goals and a positive safety climate. This will help to counter the effects of stressors that may lead to burnout.
Learn more about this research. This research article is available through contacting FEMA-NETCLibrary@fema.dhs.gov