Better Safety and Ergonomics through Kaizen

How does kaizen improve safety and ergonomics? A February 21, 2006 article in Occupational Hazards titled Using Kaizen to Improve Safety and Ergonomics gives a good illustration. Citing a need for speedy resolution of safety issues and the involvement of the experts (the people who do the work everyday) the article explains what kaizen is and how it is used effectively to improve quality. From the article:
“Kaizens are characterized as short bursts of intense activity driven toward resolving a specific problem or achieving a specific company goal in a short period of time.”
The article advocates integrating kaizen efforts with efforts to better safety and ergonomics. An example of the Lean manufacturing principle of 5S is given as a way to improve not only productivity but safety at the same time. In addition, the following safety kaizen results are given:
– 90% reduction in severity rate while improving factory throughput by 15% at TRW Cookeville, Tennessee over a 2 year period (Humantech, 2002)
– Cost savings of $100,000 per year from a single ergonomics improvement project at Honeywell (Material Handling Engineering, March 1999).
– 27% reduction in recordable injuries between 1998 and 2000 at Denso by applying ergonomics and kaizen (Smith, 2002).
Although the article accurately describes kaizen events and the activities of kaizen teams, there is more to kaizen than week-long events. Kaizen is part of everyone’s job, everyday. Kaizen is working from (or creating) standards and finding better ways to perform the work. High performance organizations do this, just as winning atheletes do at the Olypmics do. It’s not the job of the kaizen office to do kaizen, or the quality department’s job to maintain and improve quality. It’s not the safety department’s job to kaizen safety. Who’s job is it? It’s worth saying agian: kaizen is part of everyone’s job, everyday.