Start Every Hospital Meeting w/ 5 Minutes on Employee and Patient Safety


Recently, I posted a video of a “daily huddle” meeting at Everett Clinic (not exactly the type of huddle pictured at left). Yesterday, in honor of the Labor Day holiday, I had a post about employee safety and how that should be the primary moral obligation of any workplace anywhere.

The conversation quickly steered to the idea of starting each meeting, at any level, with a brief discussion of employee safety. As I thought back to my time in manufacturing   — yes, that's a very common practice in manufacturing settings, including those that aren't using Lean methods.

So my mind went back to how rarely I've seen that practiced in hospitals — why is that?

In yesterday's post comments, a number of people brought up the manufacturing focus on safety, including Kevin Meyer of Evolving Excellence:

When we begin having “safety” as the very first topic at the daily 5 minute standup meetings for the leadership team and every department, our culture changed quickly. We also began noticing unexpected trends and coming up with immediate solutions – none of which effectively happened with the old “quarterly safety review” format. The impact on our safety statistics has been very positive, but perhaps just as importantly it sent a clear signal to our employees that safety is a priority.

So it begs the question for healthcare – why not start every meeting with a focus on both employee safety AND patient safety? How many of you reading are doing this? Maybe I'm wrong in thinking this isn't too common in healthcare settings.

Now, the focus on safety shouldn't be a daily lecture to “be careful.” It should focus on raising safety issues (so they can be quickly resolved) and educating everyone on good consistent safety practices and making improvements to safety.

How much hospital CEO time is spent on patient safety on a daily basis? Does every executive meeting start with a discussion of safety?

How would this change in focus help prevent incidents like the recent preventable error at Cincinnati Children's hospital where a 7-month old patient, Tressel Meinardi, died after being flushed with alcohol instead of saline?

If you're a manufacturing reader, can you share your daily practices for “safety first” in meetings and team huddles?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Great thought. However, I see why manufacturing got involved so quickly: it had a horrible record, so OSHA and the W/C insurers really leaned on the companies. Hospital and health care facilities have a much better employee safety records, so they did not get the same attention.

    However, generally speaking, manufacturers have never had a high incidence of customers getting killed or maimed in their plants, while hospitals can’t all make that same claim. A greater focus on customer/visitor/patient safety is definitely called for.

  2. The “shouldn’t be a lecture” comment is very good. It needs to be an open conversation where everyone is comfortable bringing up safety issues without blame or recrimination. One example of “unexpected trends” which I believe is a big issue in hospitals is that one of our managers brought up a slip near-miss incident. The other managers became sensitized to this and over the next week they all witnessed or heard about similar near-misses in their departments, which had gone unreported because they were underlying “normal occurrences.” Over the next couple weeks we discussed this in the morning meeting, created action plans, and ended up changing our mopping procedure, mopping fluid, and are now trying out new “anti-slip” shoes in specific areas. We would never have known about this, and would have continued to deal with the occasional real slip injury believing it was sporadic and random and not part of a trend.

    But the other major impact is the reflection on the oft-forgotten “respect for people” pillar of lean. What better way to send a message to your employees that they matter and you care? They will reward you for that with better service, commitment, and improvement ideas.

  3. A strange coincidence…our video blog that just went out this morning was on the same topic (

    I think this practice is so fundamental and basic that many people should start here. However, I observe many standup huddles that are just going through the motions like they have to. I’m not suggesting everyone needs to be clapping and cheering, but if it’s just “let’s get this over with”, then it won’t have much impact regardless of the content.

    And yes, it should always start with safety.

  4. […] Safety Focus: There was a constant and strong primary focus on safety, at almost every step and everywhere you looked – both for employees and a constant attentiveness to visitor safety. That’s a core manifestation of Toyota’s “Respect for People” principle, a theme that was emphasized strongly in the visitor center and the tour. It was a reminder of the way factories, generally, have more of a primary organizational and leadership focus on safety, compared to most hospitals. […]

  5. What a wonderful idea. I recently visited the Toyota Camry and Prius assembly lines at Toyota City, Japan. Employees at Toyota are actively encouraged to give their views on how production can be improved – on average, they make six suggestions a year. And approximately 70% or these are implemented.

    At my local Police Constabulary here in the UK, each senior Police is required to identify 100 success a year.

    Combining these two approaches in hospitals could be the answer. Focusing the upsides and downsides of what its like to be a patient and an employee, will keep more people interested.

    • That’s nice to hear that the police are involved in improvement ideas. The thing I don’t like is the quota of 100. Targets and quotas like that can get in the way of real improvement…


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