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Safety In Numbers: What Message Are We Sending?

By Steve Kane Updated on September 22nd, 2022

Guest contribution by Jamie Parker

“Don’t tell the team. I don’t want to be the reason our number goes back to zero.”

These are the words a front-line team member shared with her plant manager after sustaining an injury. You see, this plant talks about safety every day in their daily stand-up meetings. They discuss near misses or potential safety hazards. And every week they share some sort of safety tip or training moment. But before those discussions, the first thing they share is the number of days since their last injury – and they had reached an all-time high.

I toured this plant and participated in one of the huddles (stand-up meeting) on Day 7 after the above incident. There was more engagement with the team about safety than I’ve seen in many other environments I’ve visited, though certainly not all. I’d call them middle-of-the-road in safety engagement. But the manager was in full self-assessment mode after this latest injury.

The team had created an environment that was so celebratory of their days without incident that a team member didn’t want to share her injury. She didn’t want to let her team down. She didn’t want to be the reason for a “red” result. The manager knew he had a problem.

Sometimes our good intentions have unintended consequences.

Safety crossContrast this example with a conversation I had with a practitioner last month.  In this second organization, they use the commonly used Safety Cross Calendar with a block for each day as you see here.

Each block gets colored in Green or Red. Many organizations use the color Red to indicate an incident or a near miss occurring on that day. In this organization, they use it differently.

The expectation is that every day, a team member finds a potential safety concern and corrects it. As long as at least one potential safety concern is found and corrected, Green is assigned. If, however, no potential concerns are found and fixed for the day, then Red is assigned.

By reporting on the process instead of the result, this organization is creating a sustainable culture prioritizing safety.

This approach can apply to anything in your department or organization. What measurements do you use? What behaviors and culture do those measurements drive? What is the process versus the result?

About Jamie Parker


Jamie Parker practices Lean and is passionate about learning and sharing Lean leadership. She has 15 years of experience in operations management / leadership across retail, service, and manufacturing environments. Jamie serves as an internal coach to her organization’s operations managers across the country while supervising P&L and operations management responsibilities for six commercial print plants. Jamie expresses a passion for helping leaders break the habits of traditional management approaches to create environments primed for team member fulfillment.

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