Standing Down for Safety
Standing Down for Safety

Have you ever run into a safety situation in your laboratory that requires immediate attention? Have you found a safety problem that you discovered may be happening with all lab staff? If so, you may have come to a point where you need to initiate a safety stand down.

By definition, a stand-down event means that all work stops until the issue is corrected and all affected (or potentially affected) staff has been educated to make sure the issue does not re-occur. However, in the real world, unless someone is in imminent danger, the work of the laboratory must go on for the sake of patient care.

First, you must decide whether or not a situation needs correction via a safety stand-down. What is the level of seriousness of the event? How many people does it affect? Will it keep occurring, or will it happen again soon if nothing is done now? Once the course of action has been decided upon, you can begin the necessary steps.

Develop the stand-down education. This can include a set of presentation slides, a hand-out, or talking points to use as the information is delivered. Make sure you stick to the topic(s) at hand, and do not include extraneous information, but be certain to include all items that are pertinent to the stand-down subject.

Next, decide on the stand-down delivery approach. Will you meet with staff one-on one, in small groups, or with everyone at the same time? Choose the meeting location(s) and schedule the meetings. Because this is a stand-down and a safety issue that must be dealt with, these steps should occur quickly. If you are facilitating the stand-down but not delivering it personally, be sure to give a short deadline for its completion and mandate that all involved personnel are included. Keep documentation of attendance and subject matter for future reference.

Once the stand-down is completed, gather the documentation of attendance and any other associated information and keep it for your records. The stand-down is not over, however. Make a plan and a schedule to follow-up on the safety issue. The plan may include daily or weekly checks to ensure new processes are being followed or that staff has understood the information completely.

Conducting a safety stand-down may seem difficult. It may interrupt the work you planned to do, and it may change your schedule for the next couple of days or weeks. While that may be inconvenient, remember that this course of action was chosen to help prevent harm to employees or patients, and that is what we are here to do. If you’re still unclear on when to call a safety stand-down, join me next time and I will discuss some possible scenarios in detail.

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