21 Oct 2014

The Importance of Shift Handovers

All people are prone to making errors and this is more likely when they are tired, under time pressure, or exposed to distractions and interruptions (particularly when carrying out familiar tasks). The goal of a shift handover is the accurate, reliable communication of task-relevant information across shift changes, thereby ensuring continuity of safe and effective working.

The potential for errors can be dramatically reduced through good design of procedures and equipment.

Consider the situation when a person with sole responsibility for a task/equipment takes a break from work, then returns to the same task following their absence. If the task has not been progressed/equipment not used or altered by someone else, communication is not an issue.

Contrast this with work which is shared between more than one person or continues during an absence. Under such conditions, communication and coordination take on crucial importance.

Without effective handover measures the danger of assumption is high. Imagine the scenario where an equipment fault is noted by the operative as he nears the end of a long and tiring shift, he makes a note to himself to raise the concern when he hands over to the following shift worker. In their eagerness to get home he forgets to relay the information, resulting in the equipment failing and causing a costly accident. It is a scenario that is easy to imagine as fatigue sets in and highlights the importance of introducing effective communication during a shift change.

In dynamic industries, there is a disproportionate number of errors and accidents that occur after shift handover. Good communication is imperative and should combine face-to-face two-way discussions between the shift workers, along with written logs.

Good to Go Safety encourages pre-use checks of workplace equipment. The system is highly flexible to meet the demands of all industries. By introducing a visual check of equipment before the start of each shift, it eradicates the assumption that the equipment is safe and has been checked because it had been used by the previous shift worker. It places a responsibility on every employee to carry out checks and take some responsibility for their own safety. By carrying out checks whilst both the incoming and outgoing workers are ‘crossing over’ it further strengthens the opportunity to raise any issues or concerns that may have been noted.

Of course, on occasions when the face-to-face handover can’t occur then the visual checks put in place by the Good to Go Safety system should pick-up any underlying issues anyway.

There are a number of documents and case studies available to download from the HSE relating to shift handovers:

www.hse.gov.uk/humanfactors/topics/standards.pdf
www.hse.gov.uk/humanfactors/resources/case-studies/shift-handover.htm
www.hse.gov.uk/research/otopdf/1996/oto96003.pdf
www.hse.gov.uk/humanfactors/topics/common3.pdf
www.hse.gov.uk/comah/buncefield/buncefield-report.pdf

Communication figures high in every single one of them with specific emphasis given to providing written logs. For details on our equipment safety logs please visit www.goodtogosafety.co.uk

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