How are You Using the Lean Safety Cross?

by | Mar 6, 2018 | Communication & Connection | 0 comments

“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 standup 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. There was clapping and high-fives and woo-hoos all around.

I toured this plant and participated in one of the standup meetings on Day 7 after the above incident. There was more engagement with the team about safety than I’ve seen in many other environments, 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 last 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 the “red” result.

The manager knew he had a problem.

Sometimes our good intentions have unintended consequences.

What we communicate tells our team what’s important. And when we start every safety conversation with a big celebration for not having an injury, it sends a signal to the team that 0 injuries is most important. And that could lead team members to think that no injuries is more important than reporting an injury.

Process + Results in Safety

Contrast this example with a conversation I had with another practitioner. In this second organization, they use the familiar Safety Cross Calendar with a block for each day like you see here.

Many organizations use the color red to indicate an incident or a near miss occurring on that day. But in this second organization, they use it differently.

The expectation is that every day someone on the team finds a potential safety concern and corrects it – or at least reports it if it’s too big to correct in the moment. As long as at least one potential safety concern is found and corrected/reported, Green is assigned. If, however, no potential concerns are found and fixed for the day, then Red is assigned.

You see, many organizations are taking a Results-Focused approach to the safety cross – highlighting the result of an injury or no injury.

But this second organization is taking a Process-Focused approach to the safety cross. The behavior they want to recognize and celebrate is the process of looking for potential safety concerns every day. It doesn’t have to be an actual safety hazard or near miss today. A potential concern that left untreated could turn into a safety hazard in the future counts.

A team member could say, “hey – this isn’t a problem today, but I noticed that. . . . and it could potentially lead to a safety concern down the road.” What a great habit to build throughout the entire team.

By measuring the process instead of the result, this organization is creating a sustainable culture that prioritizes safety.

Essentially, they are applying Process + Results Leadership to the daily management and communication of safety.

This Process + Results approach can apply to anything in your department or organization.

  • What measurements do you use?
  • What behaviors do those measurements drive?
  • Do your good intentions have any unintended consequences?
  • What is the process versus the result?


Meet Jamie

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I’m a recovering Command-and-Control Manager who’s now on a mission to make the world of work more human. With a soft spot in my heart for Ops Managers, this Lean blog gives you the straight talk combining Lean, Leadership, and the real challenges of operations management.