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Open Access Situational Pressures that Influence Firefighters' Decision Making about Personal Protective Equipment: A Qualitative Analysis

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Objectives: Firefighters are exposed to hazardous conditions as a result of their occupation and often understand the dangers of these toxic exposures; yet, it remains unclear why some refrain from wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) in dangerous situations. We were intrigued by the gap between demonstrated safety knowledge and lack of connection to observed or self-reported safety behaviors, an issue about which there is limited consensus among scholars. Methods: In a national study of fire service safety climate, 123 firefighters across 12 fire departments participated in 62 interviews and 10 focus groups. Results: Firefighter identity, goal seduction, and situation aversion were the strongest factors of PPE non-compliance, whereas PPE empowerment and individual will promoted PPE use within a fire department. Conclusions: Understanding situations where PPE use is both practiced and neglected is imperative to improving fire service safety culture. Peer-pressure and leading by example at the peer and organizational levels appear to be essential considerations firefighters undertake when choosing whether or not to engage in safety behavior.

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Keywords: DECISION MAKING; FIREFIGHTER; IDENTITY; PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE); SAFETY CLIMATE; SITUATIONAL PRESSURES

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Drexel University School of Public Health, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Philadelphia, PA 2: University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Department of Organizational Science and Communication Studies, Charlotte, NC 3: University of Nebraska at Omaha, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Omaha, NE 4: Drexel University School of Public Health, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Philadelphia, PA;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2016-09-01

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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