Member Spotlight: Poudre Fire Authority

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Courage, Leadership, Duty: Safety Culture and Practices at Poudre Fire Authority

 
At Poudre Fire Authority (PFA), providing safety is not only their mission, it’s their day-to-day practice. Servicing an area of approximately 235 square miles, their personnel regularly encounter risk on the field, prompting them to embrace safety in all of their operations to ensure that their men and women return home safe and sound.

Last year, our Safety Management Consultant Adam Johnsen paid a visit to PFA and had the chance to participate in a safety committee meeting. He was so impressed that we decided to interview Support Battalion Chief, Gary Nuckols for more insight on what it takes to create an effective safety culture.

Chief Nuckols has traveled across the country to share his expertise on line-of-duty injuries and training with other fire departments. We are excited to share with you some of his thoughts and PFA’s novel approaches to workplace safety in this issue’s Membership Spotlight.

Safety in Numbers

Like most entities, Poudre Fire Authority has a safety committee charged with addressing concerns, discussing preventive measures, and instituting safety enhancements. At their monthly meetings they have discussed topics such as improved side rail protection for training props and pump pressure gauge designs. However, what makes PFA really stand out is their willingness to go even further.

Chief Nuckols had this to say concerning the service agency’s safety culture, “PFA has a strong culture of safety especially our emergency scenes which create the most dangerous risks to our personnel […] PFA has incorporated full time dedicated Safety Officers into our daily operations with one Safety Officer per shift.”

Not only has PFA employed full-time Safety Officers, they also have committees dedicated to related programs. For example, there is a committee that specifically oversees the use, maintenance, and compliance of safety standards involving personal protective equipment (PPE).

Another committee is tasked with providing peer support, and another exclusively handles fitness and physical training. PFA’s safety committee is comprised of representatives from all of the organization’s committees in addition to the Health and Safety Battalion Chief, Safety Officers, Infectious Control Officer, Captains, and firefighters. By delegating oversight to different committees within the organization, PFA understands it takes a village to build an effective safety culture.

Self-Reflection as Risk Prevention

For Poudre Fire Authority, safety practices are inextricably connected to their standard operating procedures and training action plans. Whenever an incident occurs, such as a vehicular accident or workplace injury, Safety Officers conduct a review that takes into consideration all related events in the past.

The crews that were involved are then directed to conduct a self-analysis of the incident, and prompted to ask questions about how it could have been avoided, what sort of measures could be applied to a similar situation, and how to move forward.

Presently, PFA’s safety committee is exploring ways of widely disseminating the important lessons learned from this process of self-analysis. “We adhere to a strong Incident Command Structure allowing for scene accountability and communication. Our Operational Directives address safe operations through a defined expectation of actions and required safety measures such as PPE,” Chief Nuckols told us. This delineation of expectation of actions, and emphasis on open communication and accountability reinforces safety as more than just a set of rules to abide by, it’s a mindset.

No Hiding behind Closed Doors

Given the size and scope of their operations, PFA prefers an open door policy when it comes to safety concerns rather than a strictly-defined reporting process. PFA strives to make safety a topic that can and should be open to discussion, and most safety concerns are brought up in-person.

While this approach can prove to be challenging for the safety committee, PFA has found that this openness has allowed personnel to feel at ease with coming forward about their issues and concerns.

We’d like to stress that districts employ different ways of addressing safety issues. Some utilize suggestion boxes with the option of anonymous submissions, others prefer written reports that go through proper channels. Ultimately, it’s important for districts to identify ways their employees can bring up these topics freely.

These are just a few ways in which Poudre Fire Authority has championed safety in its workplace. It is our hope that PFA’s efforts in mitigating risk and ensuring the livelihood of their employees resonates with other districts, and encourages you to prioritize safety in your own district.

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