Emergency Services Research Program

Emergency services personnel play a crucial role in keeping the community safe, so it is only fair that someone looks out for their safety, too. Our team draws upon all MUARC research themes (transport, workplace, home and community) to guide emergency service organisations towards the safest possible workplace conditions for those who are called upon during times of need, and the members of the community who are affected. Significant partnerships have been forged from this research program including collaborations with the Country Fire Authority and Victoria Police.

Our collaborations

Collaborating with CFA

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) is Victoria’s fire suppression and fire prevention agency for peri-urban and rural Victoria, with over 59,000 volunteers and 1,800 professional firefighters and community educators. In response to the devastating bushfires of 2009, CFA became interested in better understanding the safety science and public health approaches for prevention.

A collaborative research program with CFA has been designed to develop a greater understanding of the social, economic, and environmental risk and protective factors relating to fires, as well as overcome organisational and cultural barriers that impact effective fire and safety management.

This collaboration has formed into an ongoing partnership with CFA, with a mix of applied, policy-action projects funded to address specific issues and a ‘baseline’ research program for more strategic projects.

Outputs from this collaboration have contributed to a number of changes at CFA, including the way in which the organisation targets prevention programs, and measures community safety performance.

Examples of research produced through the CFA collaboration:

  • Establishing a methodology to estimate the cost of residential fires in Victoria.
  • Analysing CFA fire incident data to establish factors affecting both the risk of residential fire occurrence and the severity of outcomes. Outcomes of this project have been integrated into a CFA-developed mapping tool to identify high prevalence zones for identified risk factors. The mapping tool is being used to more precisely and effectively target prevention initiatives.
  • Analysis of fire incident data to better understand the incidence of non-residential structure fires.
  • A study investigating the factors influencing crash involvement of CFA vehicles leading to recommendations on strategies to reduce crash risk among the CFA fleet, including fire-fighting appliances as well as corporate fleet vehicles.
  • A data linkage study (in partnership with Ambulance Victoria and the Department of Epidemiology at Monash University) to better understand the incidence and impact of injuries to the community at CFA-attended incidents.

Police safety

Copyright Victoria Police 2018. This image may only be used by express permission of Victoria Police.

Our emergency services research has also focused on creating a safer workplace for police. We have worked with Victoria Police to identify the causes of workplace incidents and the most effective ways to respond.

In collaboration with colleagues from the Monash Faculty of Medicine, we conducted a police (physical) injury study, which analysed injury claims over time, and a mental health prevalence study involving an organisation-wide survey of both operational police and public service employees.

Incident responder safety

Our work has also focused on the safety of incident responders and emergency service workers when responding to unplanned events on high speed roads.

Study with us – potential graduate research topics

If you have a passion for solving problems, enjoy discovering new things and are inspired by working with experts to undertake research that benefits society, then a PhD at MUARC is for you. Please find below two potential graduate research topics that you may nominate as part of your application.

Fleet safety in the emergency services

The emergency services play an integral role in public health and safety. These organisations are responsible for responding to a wide range of emergencies, and many agencies also engage in community awareness and prevention programs. The operation of a motor vehicle is a key activity in the job role tasks of emergency service staff. Given the specific demands of driving during emergency situations, these drivers are likely to experience a greater level of risk associated with their driving. In fact, research has identified that emergency service workers are at high risk of serious injury and/or death following a crash. Contributing factors include the size and weight of the vehicles involved, and speed during emergency response. Given the importance of the emergency services, it is important to ensure the safety of staff and volunteers, and thus it is important to understand the factors influencing risk. This project will take a systems thinking perspective to explore the safety of drivers in emergency vehicle fleets.

This thesis would be supervised by Dr Carlyn Muir, Dr Sharon Newnam & Assoc Prof Stuart Newstead.

Occupational safety in the emergency services

The nature of Police and Emergency Service work means that first responders are regularly exposed to potentially traumatic events, putting them at risk of physical injury and may impact their mental health. This type of work is subject to a combination of stressors, including: shift work; long working hours; repeated exposure to death, trauma and/or violence; difficult interactions with members of the public; high expectations of the profession; high levels of governance; strong cultural pressures; and stigmatising attitudes towards mental health and suicide. Most research on emergency service worker injury has focused on specific injury types or occupational hazards (such as stress, or arrest and restrain in police), and thus there is limited information describing the broader patterns of injuries (and associated costs). This broader understanding is important given that long-term health morbidity and mortality rates in emergency service occupations (such as police) exceed other occupations and the general population. A clear understanding of the nature and characteristics of injuries is important to assist in the development of more effective prevention approaches. This project aims to better understand the nature, characteristics and costs of emergency service worker injuries and near misses.

This thesis would be supervised by Dr Carlyn Muir and Assoc Prof Stuart Newstead.

Find out more about study opportunities at MUARC


For any enquiries relating to our emergency services research program, please contact:

Dr Carlyn Muir

Carlyn Muir

Carlyn is a Senior Research Fellow at Monash University Accident Research Centre. With qualifications in psychology and public health, she has a particular interest in safety governance and culture across a diverse range of injury prevention topics. She has experience in research, policy and evaluation in road safety and occupational safety, both nationally and internationally. Carlyn has managed a number of large scale safety projects, with a focus on the prevention and management of injury among high risk groups (for example, emergency services and work-related drivers). This involves the application of psychological and health theory to understand and influence behaviour within complex systems. A strong focus of this research is to develop policy recommendations that are evidence-based, practical and achievable. Carlyn also co-ordinates MUARC’s activities as a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Violence and Injury Prevention, which focuses on research, advocacy and capacity building in the Western Pacific Region.

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