The concept of safety huddles has been around for years and can take various forms. In general, they involve organizational stakeholders who provide a briefing on safety topics relevant to the past 24 hours and future 24 hours of operations to improve information-sharing and accountability. Facilities managers are important members of the huddle team, and many safety incidents that have impacts across departments fall under their leadership purview. Key examples include both unplanned and planned utility outages.

Many facilities managers have experienced first hearing about a facilities-related safety issue by another leader in their huddle and, thereby, were ill-prepared to address either the cause or the resolution. Here are three ways to avoid this circumstance and improve the safety huddle experience for everyone:

  • Institute an incident escalation path within the facilities team. Ensure all shifts recognize the importance of leadership situational awareness for incidents that disrupt normal operations. For example, if there was a plumbing issue in a patient room that required a room closure, ensure the team reports the situation to the facilities manager prior to the huddle.
  • Set the standard for a proactive report out in the safety huddle. Provide information such as planned elevator maintenance and shutdown in the safety huddle in advance of the downtime. For known issues that occurred during the previous night, report on those events at the start of the huddle.
  • Create open channels of communication with the fellow safety huddle leaders. Get to know the leaders within the huddle team and show that they can come to you directly for any concerns. Effective communication within the facilities department and across the safety huddle team will prevent all leaders from being surprised during the huddle. If surprises still happen, offer to speak with the leader immediately following the meeting.

Kathryn Quinn, MHS, CHSP, SASHE, safety officer and emergency management manager at Saint Alphonsus Health System, and Jeffrey Henne, CHC, FASHE, CHSP, CHEP, CHFSM, CHPCP, safety and emergency manager at Penn Medicine — Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.