A simple piece of advice that could literally save your life

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The week before President Obama was sworn in I saw an article in the Globe and Mail - a Canadian national newspaper with the headline: "Simple checklist saves lives in the operating room".

The article cites a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that the use of a simple operating room checklist developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) reduces post-op death rates by 40 percent and major complications by more than a third.

I didn't find this too surprising. After all, the whole idea of checklists is they remove all margin for error and omission. It's why commercial pilots use them. It's why professional divers use them. And it's why I'm a big advocate of their use when commissioning or re-commissioning hydraulic systems to avoid damaging high-priced components during start-up.

But the next part of the article made my jaw drop: The results of the study were so compelling that the CEO of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute is pushing health ministers in Canada to start using the WHO checklist within three to six months.

Say what? You mean they ain't doing this already?

IMPORTANT note to self: If you ever have to undergo major surgery, make sure the surgeon is using this checklist BEFORE you give consent.

The other beautiful thing about checklists, and something this article was quick to point out, is there's virtually zero expense associated with their adoption and use. Which is why no hospital - or hydraulic equipment user - can use cost as an excuse for not using them.

And in case you're thinking my analogy between surgery and hydraulic component change-outs is a bit tenuous, consider this:

From the WHO checklist (post-op):
"Confirm instrument, sponge and needle counts are correct."

Hydraulics translation:
"Did you remove the rag you stuffed into the pump intake line before you connected it to the replacement pump?"

Sure, the consequences are different, but the outcome for the practitioner are similar: embarrassment, guilt, damaged reputation, cost - things we all want to avoid.

If you've ignored my advice on this before, I guess you'll go on ignoring me. But for those of you who 'get' the benefit of this, you'll find a generic checklist in chapter five of Insider Secrets to Hydraulics. But the best ones are machine specific. For guidance on drafting checklists tailored to your own equipment, watch DVD four of my Hydraulic Breakdown Prevention Blueprint.

And above all else remember that while the ability to commit important things to memory is an admirable skill, as the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court found out, it's fraught with danger. So whether you're swearing in a President, changing out a hydraulic component or about to go under the knife, a checklist can save your skin!

Related articles:

You can't fix stupid - but you can avoid hydraulic failures due to memory lapse!
How to avoid hydraulic troubleshooting mistakes
How to reduce hydraulic cylinder repair costs

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