Why Women Could Make Firefighting Safer for All Firefighters

A new study by researchers at the Center for Firefighter Injury Research & Safety Trends at Drexel University in Philadelphia, finds incorporating new ideas from women can improve safety in traditionally male fire departments, but the hypermasculine culture in some can make female firefighters feel unwelcome and less likely to share their ideas.

Utilizing interviews and focus groups of female firefighters and leaders in various departments, the study sought to see what unique safety behaviors women bring to the job, how such practices might contribute to a safer fire service, and what cultural barriers exist to implementation.

The authors write that participants reported that “women have less of a ‘tough guy’ attitude than their male colleagues and felt that deviating from the modernist American hyper-masculine norm may have a positive impact on their work practices and injury outcomes. If women in the fire service perceive risk differently than their male colleagues, perhaps strengthening efforts to recruit women and creating a culture that values their perspective will improve the occupation’s overall safety outcomes.”

Jennifer Taylor, an associate professor of public health at Drexel and a co-author of the study, notes that “women and men are socialized differently around risk. Men are told to embrace it, women are told to avoid it. Therefore, it is possible that women would look at hazardous work by weighing the risks and benefits more than their male counterparts.”

Dr. Taylor joined the Drexel University faculty in 2007. She is a graduate of Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, where she majored in biochemistry. She holds a master of public health degree from Boston University and a Ph.D. in health policy and management from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore/

The article, “Ladders and Lifting: How Gender Affects Safety Behaviors in the Fire Service,” was published on the website of the Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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