Red Rules for Boards

By Barry S Bader

In industries where safety is critical and quality must come first, such as airlines and nuclear power, “red rules” refer to protocols that must be followed “to the letter” – all work stops until they are. A commercial airliner doesnʼt leave the gate if the pilot spies a possible leak or flat tire; a nuclear plant operator or even a Toyota assembly line worker can “stop the line” when he spots a critical flaw.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) says one example of a red rule in healthcare might be: “No hospitalized patients can undergo a test of any kind, receive a medication or blood product, or undergo a procedure if they are not wearing an identification bracelet.” The moment a patient is spotted who does not meet this condition, all activity ceases until the patientʼs identity has been verified and an identification band is in place.

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