Change safety cultures with Kaizen
In this modern day, where information is so readily available, there are still organizations that have yet to embrace safety. Those failing to do so are often blinded only by a lack of data or just bad data.
Many well-intentioned safety supervisors have worked in this environment, but are left helpless without management's full support. Unfortunately, the lack of support is often due to old numbers that don't support the cost of developing a safety culture.
Kaizen can help inject some new numbers into organizations so its difficult for upper management to look the other way on safety. The National Science Foundation is now supporting a study of the philosophy, which could yield some interesting ammunition for Health & Safety Managers now working in unsafe cultures.
Researchers at Oregon State University and Virginia Tech have partnered with nine different businesses to identify Kaizen "event" factors most critical to short-term and long-term performance improvements. The term "event" is used in the study to describe " ... workshops where employees try to accomplish as much actual Kaizen as possible."
Early reports in the study are promising. Researchers say most participating team members believe Kaizen will have a positive impact on the work area. Some organizations are already finding the philosophy is helping create a culture of continual improvement and will sustain improved levels of performance. Not all organizations are, however, finding success in the early stage of this study. Some organizations report work area performance actually degraded under Kaizen. Some to pre-event performance levels.
If you work in safety, this study will be well-worth watching closely. Results indicating efficiency and cost savings could create an excellent vehicle to persuade some organizations to listen to your safety improving ideas - especially when good safety is shown to also improve efficiency.
Since Kaizen is something a company adopts from top to bottom, it impacts everyone. Managers must seek ideas for efficiency improvement from workers. Upper management, in turn, must support these improvements, which opens the door to sustaining a safety program for the long run.
That's why Kaizen isn't just for production. The impact of implementation reaches all corners of an organization and opens the door to culture change. Production managers may be the first to embrace it, but they will also be much more open to implementing your ideas to improve safety.
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