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Institute of Fire Safety Managers issues findings of inaugural research projects

11 March 2024

THE RESULTS of two year-long research projects funded by the Institute of Fire Safety Managers (IFSM) are now publicly available to view online. The IFSM’s initiative was launched back in 2022 with an open invitation to interested parties to apply for funding in pursuance of fire-related topics. The selected projects ran from January through to December last year.

The first research study targeted the critical role of ‘Authentic Leadership in Fire Safety Management’. Ultimately, the study sheds light on the crucial links between authentic leadership and safety outcomes in the realm of fire safety management.

Entitled ‘Authentic Leadership and Safety Outcomes’, the final report explores how authentic leaders foster a culture of psychological safety through support and integrity, positive role modelling and trust, in turn leading to stronger safety climates and resulting in fewer incidents, accidents and near misses.

Authentic leadership emerges as being “foundational” in creating an environment of psychological safety wherein all team members feel safe and empowered to speak up and contribute fully towards safety initiatives. The research findings, in fact, indicate that authentic leaders play a pivotal role in instilling trust and tackling ethical decision-making: both are felt to be essentials for driving successful and sustainable safety outcomes.

A surprising correlation between dog ownership and positive mental health strategies among fire safety professionals also emerged. In 2023, 31% of UK households reported owning one or more dogs. Within the IFSM membership who undertook the research, this figure more than doubles at 68%. The value of dogs as stress-relievers and assistants when it comes to positive physical and mental health outcomes cannot be downplayed, particularly so in safety-critical industries where the risks of harm and moral injury are high.  

“The research findings highlight the critical role of authentic leadership in generating a culture of psychological safety within fire safety management and safety management more broadly,” explained Dr Fiona Beddoes-Jones, lead researcher and author of the report. “By prioritising authentic leadership, organisations can enhance safety outcomes and also ensure the well-being of their people.”

The full report, including the detailed methodology and findings, is available to view online.

Fire alarm systems

The second research study, entitled ‘Fire Alarm Considerations for People with Sensory Sensitivities’, considered four different special education needs schools, comparing their fire alarm systems to the Fire Industry Association (FIA)  guidance published in 2022 and itself focused on fire alarm design and people with sensory sensitivities.

The aim of the Case Studies was to provide real-life examples and demonstrate how to reduce the possibility of individuals having adverse reactions to sudden loud noises such as those realised by fire alarms, as well as considering how to reduce the risk of fire alarms being falsely or maliciously activated and causing more frequent upset to individuals and their learning.

Researcher Sonny White commented: “I hope that the FIA guidance and this research raises awareness among fire alarm designers and installers when it comes to the issue of sensory sensitivity. I hope that designers will consider working collaboratively with school staff and students to better understand the needs of students and that they will consider PAVA solutions where possible.”

White continued: “I’m really pleased that Honeywell is currently considering how they can make their systems’ audible tones more inclusive for those with sensory sensitivities. It would be wonderful if other manufacturers followed suit.”

In point of fact, White was only 16 years old when he applied for the research grant and carried out the site visits – and wrote the report – at the age of 17. “It has been a really good opportunity for me to gain experience in planning my research, collaborating with different professionals and writing reports,” stated White. “I’ve forged some good links with industry and learned a great deal about fire alarms through this research. My plan is to put this knowledge to good use in a fire safety role on leaving college later this year.”

The full report is available to view online.

First wave

Dave White, chair of the IFSM, informed Fire Safety Matters: “We are keen to support those wishing to pursue their own interests in fire-related subjects and, as such, absolutely delighted to be able to share the findings from our first wave of scholarship funding.”

White added: “As well as the scholarship award winners benefiting from their efforts, it’s important that the findings are shared industry-wide for the benefit of fire safety as a whole. The reports are available within the Technical Library section of our website. Coming soon is a Special Edition of our journal Daedalus. These initial research reports will feature in full.”

*Applications related to research funding for 2025 are currently open and don’t close until 31 July. Visit the IFSM website for further information