Positive safety culture

Control Measure Knowledge

The fire and rescue service has developed a strong culture of safety through policies that adhere to health and safety law and regulations. This has been achieved in consultation with, and with the assistance of, the Health and Safety Executive.

Fire and rescue services should promote a culture that encourages incident commanders to act in accordance with the intentions of the Health and Safety Executive publication ‘Striking the balance between operational and health and safety duties in the Fire and Rescue Service’. Fire and rescue services should be aware that this can be undermined by the introduction of procedures with restrictive elements that prevent incident commanders from applying their professional judgement.

Fire and rescue service operational risk principles have been developed to promote a positive operational safety culture. All personnel should be made aware of these principles, which should be considered as a guide to making and managing risk-critical decisions during incidents:

Principle 1: A willingness to make decisions in conditions of uncertainty is a core need for all members of the fire and rescue service.

Principle 2: The primary consideration for making decisions is the safety of individuals and communities.

Principle 3: Risk acceptance involves judgement and balance, with decision makers required to consider the value and likelihood of the possible benefits of a particular decision against the seriousness and likelihood of the possible harm.

Principle 4: Harm can never be totally prevented. Risk-critical decisions should therefore be judged by the quality of the decision-making, not by the outcome.

Principle 5: To reduce risk aversion, improve decision-making and avoid decision traps, a culture is required that learns from successes and failures. Good application of risk management which allows for positive operational outcomes should be identified, celebrated and shared, preferably through operational learning and debrief of outcomes.

Fire and rescue services should encourage, approve and support their members who make decisions consistent with these principles.

Fire and rescue services should recognise that every incident and situation will present its own challenges. Fire control commanders and fire control personnel need to be able to use knowledge, skills, systems and equipment to support the safe conclusion of incidents and situations.

Fire control commanders have a responsibility to promote a positive safety culture through:

  • Safe systems of work
  • Appropriate supervision
  • Effective communication

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions