Research purpose The purpose of this study is to examine the extent to which both employees and leaders in extreme environments perceive the same levels of safety participation. Furthermore, this study examines the association between empowering leadership and team performance as well as empowering leadership and safety participation. Research design, approach and methods This study follows a quantitative approach as its main purpose is to establish relationships between constructs. As such, correlations and multiple regression analyses were conducted. Convenience sampling was applied to obtain the data. Firefighters and their immediate line officers (lieutenants) were surveyed. Five fire departments in small to medium cities were chosen in the Great Lakes and south-eastern regions in the United States (US). Questionnaires were distributed to 263 firemen, of which 186 were firefighters and 78 were their line officers/lieutenants. Main findings Results indicated that a positive association does not exist between firefighters' perceptions of safety participation and their leaders' perception of safety participation when control variables are added. Therefore, no significant relationship exists between firefighters' perceptions of safety participation and their leaders' perception of safety participation. Furthermore, the results also showed a positive association does not exist between empowering leadership and safety participation when control variables are added. Consequently, no significant relationship exists between firefighters' reports of empowering leadership and lieutenants' reports of safety participation. Lastly, regarding empowering leadership and team performance, the results did not support a direct relationship between these two constructs. Limitations The results should be interpreted bearing in mind that they are applicable to the United States of America and may not be generalised to the South African context. Additionally, very little research has been conducted on empowering leadership and safety behaviour in extreme environments, and therefore the literature review was limited to other organisational environments. Lastly, only three cultural groups (White, Black and Hispanic) and only men participated in this study, so results may not be generalisable to other demographic groups. The study was only positioned in extreme environments, specifically in firefighting, therefore it is unclear whether the results can be generalised to other work environments. Future Research It is suggested that this study is replicated, firstly because little research has been done in extreme environments but, secondly, that it also be specifically replicated in South Africa. Indicated by the data, a lieutenant's age has a positive association with how he perceives his team's safety participation. This could be due to various reasons. For example, the more experienced the lieutenant the more comfortable he gets towards the extreme environment. Lastly, it is suggested that research is conducted to determine other leadership styles which could be effective in extreme environments. Conclusion Insight was given into the empowering leadership style in terms of team performance and safety behaviour. Furthermore, the relation between firefighters' perceptions of safety participation and their leaders' perceptions of safety participation was not confirmed.
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2017.