FRIDAY FORUM: The Safety Officer

“What, would you say, you do here?”

The Safety Officer is one of the most misapplied positions in the fire service. The tragedy is, done correctly, it could be tremendously beneficial.  

What it's not: 

The SO is not to be internal affairs for chinstrap, scba, and uniform violations. They are not there to write people up, criticize operations, and be the gestapo of the administration. 

What it could be:

“What could be lethal to my team? Let me fix it.” A very simple and vital job description. Notice the phrase “my team.” You’re playing for the same team; the same objective. Consider the Free Safety in Football. The last line of defense, watching for anything to break through so it can be crushed. 

On the fireground, the Safety Officer is that Free Safety.  While IC’s and individual units are task saturated, the SO can wander and maintain a 30,000’ view.  Do we have enough ladders thrown? Is our water supply in question? Are we operating in a collapse zone we failed to notice? The SO makes sure nothing slips through.

Off the fireground, the SO should be the biggest advocate for the team. They should be the FIRST to complain to Admin about staffing, training, equipment, and morale. They should lead training based on the deficiencies they identify, or better yet fill the role of the Training Officer when not operating at fires and emergencies. 

Sure, PPE infractions may at times need to be addressed, but they should be addressed as a “we” issue not a “you” issue.

The Safety Officer should be every team member’s favorite to see coming. If you fill this role, own the “we,” and make it so.

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