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The Importance of an Effective Shift Handover

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Picture this. You’re watching the clock, you and your team are ready to check out after a long shift. Your replacement should be through the door any minute, prepared to start their own stint.

A lot has happened on this trip. There is some important information you need to pass on when they arrive. You want to do your usual thorough shift handover even though you are weary from a long, difficult trip. Your family hasn’t seen you in weeks and your mind drifts to seeing your kids run through the door. Having your favourite homemade meal and sleeping in your own bed is definitely on your mind. Then the whole cycle begins again.

External Influences – Human Shift Handover

Now imagine for a minute that it’s you that’s about to start your shift. You just had a great three weeks at home with the family. You feel well-rested. Time to switch on and get into the right frame of mind for the challenges ahead. You need a good understanding of what’s been going on for the past twelve hours and indeed the continuing issues from the past 2-3 weeks. It allows you to hit the ground running. A slick handover means that you’re prepared for the responsibility of your time on duty. Without a helpful conversation, there could be confusion, accidents or even injury. And you haven’t even had your coffee yet.

The importance of shift handover is clear. Failure to communicate could be disastrous. And that’s not good enough, especially when shift handover is a crucial element of so many safety-critical environments. We have two professionals here who are well-trained and conscientious. They are darn good at their jobs. However, they both have external influences that can impact their ability to communicate clearly. We are all human after all. One wants to get home and see their loved ones. The other wants to clear their head and prepare for their stint. Concise, unhurried information goes a long way to start (and end) a shift responsibly.

Too Much Data is Worse Than No Data At All

Reporting systems must not be cluttered. Before smart shift handover software, paper reporting or traditional logging meant that staff often wrote everything down. Often, it was impossible for the next person on duty to make out the important information through the clutter. Without a clear process for debriefing, you could end up with a handover consisting of a 20-page document. A lot of information will be difficult to digest. That doesn’t help anyone.

Finding a way to avoid information overload benefits both workers on the clock. Leaving becomes a quick and structured process. You get home before your dinner gets cold and before your kids are in bed. Starting a new shift becomes seamless because you have the necessary information flagged for your attention. Goodbye clutter!

Highlight What’s Critical – and Park the Rest

So, how do you make a dream handover come true?

First, make sure that there is a structured process for every handover. There might be times when there’s little or nothing to report – and that’s great news! Everyone gets to where they want to be a whole lot faster. But without a process for giving the green lights, what should take both colleagues a few, easy minutes leaves them worried that something wasn’t said or done.

An efficient shift handover allows you to build a process that works for the whole team. Even before you know the exact details of the last shift, you know what to expect and the steps you’re about to discuss. It’s equal to a handover high five.

If you are using computer systems, it should enable human interaction. It’s not worth a penny if it isn’t facilitating the right conversation for the operators on the ground. Hence, Health and Safety Executive describe developing staff communication as one of the top factors for improving safety when they discuss the importance of shift handovers.

Shift Handover Procedure Engineering: Putting the People First

Operators need the tools to recognise what’s critical and what’s noise. You should have the confidence to flag it, without worrying that you’re missing something that’s going to come back to bite you. On top of this, those taking over a shift should trust that they have all the information they need.

Creating and configuring the right shift handover process facilitates an effective handover. It becomes easy to flag something important and handover efficiently. You and your colleagues get a heads up on what’s standing in the way of some well-deserved shut-eye.


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