We need to fail for the sake of safety

In 2023 this was on ECRI's top ten. Managers, if a PM leads to a fix, please make it policy to indicate failure. Failure shows the value of PM.

February 14, 2014

As I travel the country I find that most technicians and most departments do not regularly fail inspections.  A technician will often say, "I fixed it, it did not fail."
Recording failure is how we record the value of our scheduled work.  If we perform 5000 work orders, and nothing is ever wrong, maybe we do not need any inspection other than those that fit legal requirements, compliance requirements or pressure from our own risk or safety committees.  We might find we are inspecting only what everyone else inspects.
Recording failure and getting an idea if that failure is significant, is a good way to check progress in our program.  We can determine the significance of failure by determining if it could have had a detrimental effect on the patient.  We might also want to consider the financial risk of the failure.  What would have happened next if we had not located a problem and fixed it.
Once we record failure, we can make a plan to reduce failure.  If the failure is related to use error, we can implement training, signage, rewards or change the environment.  If the failure is due to manufacturing problems, we can turn to the manufacturer for a remedy, making it clear their response will affect our decision in future purchases.  If the failure relates to the environment, we can control temperatures, humidity or improve the quality of electrical supply.  If the failure could have be prevented by more regular testing or maintenance, we might find the appropriate party to perform a daily check or routine process, such as cleaning.
If we do not record failure, it is left up to the general memory of events to determine our future plans.   The importance we place on our actions may reflect factors other than science, such as our feeling about a staff member or the outcome of one specific event we experienced or heard about.  We might not have a system in place for measuring the result of any changes we make.  In the worst case, we may find out after a major incident we had been seeing a problem over and over, but never recording it.  This is the type of information that often come out after a major problem has occurred.

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