101 Kaizen Templates

101 Kaizen Templates: Safety Calendar

By Jon Miller Updated on October 31st, 2020

Early in the year is a good time to refresh our commitment to health, safety and sustainability of our various enterprises. Despite our best intentions, habits being what they are, these resolutions are too often not so resolute. Unlike quality or profit, safety is one area where there is no “do over” when mistakes happen and for this reason we need to be vigilant year-round.

The Safety Calendar  is one of the 101 kaizen templates and a must-have item for any lean enterprise. This is something we look for whenever we walk through a company. If we do not see a safety calendar or some variant of this visual management tool on our gemba walk, we don’t take their talk of action on respect for people and kaizen as seriously.

Track Near Misses and Minor Things

When starting out with this kaizen template we encourage you to mark a day red whenever there was a cut, bruise, or minor injury. The Heinrich principle teaches us that paying attention to all of the “near misses” helps us prevent the serious injuries and deaths that can occur. Treat your people well, and make “Do you feel safe?” a catch phrase. Even if people have become desensitized to an unsafe workplace, red marks day after day for minor injuries will raise awareness immediately. Nobody wants to be seen managing an unsafe workplace, so safety issues will be kaizened.

Here are three points of practical advice on the use of the safety calendar.

Empower People to Improve Safety

First, empower people to secure their safety. Ask the people who work in the area to update the safety calendar daily and discuss ways to kaizen unsafe conditions. You will find that these things align with other lean initiatives such as 5S, quality and cost reduction.The safety calendar should be part of a team’s overall performance management visual board. These are placed near the actual workplace in high traffic areas.

Keep the Format Simple

Second, the format should be as simple as possible. The cross shape is often associated with health (Red Cross, first aid, hospitals, etc.) but almost any shape will do. As for colors, we’ve seen red / yellow / green style color-coding, smiling faces, etc. in place of the simple red / green system of yes / no for injuries. The two risks with adding extra color or symbol codes is potential vagueness in definitions and a way to make accidents “yellow” so they are excused without serious attention or investigation. As in all visual management, the goal is to make the abnormality immediately obvious so that kaizen can follow. We don’t ask our customers to accept minor scratches on their product, so why should we ask this of our people?

Make Tracking and Upkeep Simple

Third, keep the maintenance and tracking as simple as possible. The safety calendar need not replace the health and safety reporting system you already have. It complements your existing system by encouraging early detection and prevention. Lost time incidents should still be reported through existing channels. Team leaders or supervisors should log the type and frequency of accidents on a pictogram or other format so that safety kaizen can be done through rapid improvement teams, QC circles, or suggestions.

Health and Safety in Every Environment

We started using the safety calendar at the Gemba office last year. We cataloged sick days, back pain, the odd chip that flew into the eye of the consultant with safety glasses on his head and not over the eyes. When you walk into your work area and the safety cross looks like this, it gets your attention. Whenever we pick up the red pen, we do so because we hurt somebody.

We have made several minor safety improvements in our office and we are testing others. This year we need to take this to another level so that we can start reducing the near misses and lost time incidents of various sorts through root cause problem solving.

  1. leanitorgohome

    January 15, 2008 - 12:04 pm

    One of our operations uses the safety pizza. One slice of pepperoni per work day. Each area that safely works through each piece of pepperoni receives gift cards to a local pizza place. It seems to work.

  2. sue mackie

    December 9, 2014 - 7:48 am

    I have been using the safty calender for 5 years in a hospital setting to reduce the incidence of pressure ulcers. can I ask a question about permission to publish the Kaizen Cross. I would like to put the figure in the paper I am submitting, but I do not know who to get this permission from, can anyone help?

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