Kaizen Events: Changing Your Work Environment to Reduce Injuries

Jeff Smagacz
Ergonomics Practice Leader, Marsh Risk Consulting
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Finding good workers is half the battle — you also need to keep them healthy and productive. Today, around 20% of days of missed work are due to sprains and strains that happen as a result of poor workplace design. Companies and public sector organizations that consider their employees' work environment and how it can affect health and efficiency — known as ergonomics — can potentially reduce workplace injuries.

Most organizations see the frequency of ergonomic-related injuries and costs grow each year. But the simple fact is that people need to perform physical work, whether at a factory, store, warehouse, school campus or an office. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for one-third of worker injuries and illnesses annually and ergonomics-related injuries require more time off than other workplace injuries and illnesses.

OSHA and Liberty Mutual also found that overexertion injuries — lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing — cost businesses $13.8 billion every year.

Additionally, an estimate of the total economic burden of serious, nonfatal workplace injuries as measured by workers’ compensation costs is nearly $60 billion.

Turning Losses Into a Win-Win

Creating operations based on good design that benefits the entire workforce is an easier solution than you might think. One effective way to do this is through a continuous improvement method known as a kaizen event.

Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “good change.” These events help make employees’ jobs safer and more efficient through the study of their work activities and small, simple improvements in their environment. The focus is on immediate action rather than longer-term, costly alternatives.

During a Kaizen event, small teams of operators and maintenance employees make and implement recommendations to improve a process. These teams support and continue the process even after the event is over. Because operators know the process, work the process and are involved in any changes to the process, there is tremendous buy-in and ownership of all improvements.

Daily and Long-Term Improvements

Kaizen events can help reduce your total cost of risk and your ergonomic-injury costs while boosting your bottom line and productivity. While there are numerous ways to tackle ergonomic-related injuries, a kaizen event is a simple and effective approach that enables employees to improve safety and efficiency. When conducted regularly in conjunction with other casualty risk reduction programs, kaizen events can help your organization achieve safety excellence.

*The views and opinions expressed in the Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) blogs are those of each respective author. The views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRIMA.*

By: Jeff Smagacz
Ergonomics Practice Leader, Marsh Risk Consulting

Summary of Qualifications

Jeff is a board-certified ergonomist and well-known problem solver. He leverages his vast human factors/ergonomics skill set with clients to deploy initiatives that align business requirements with safe, efficient and sustainable processes. To date, Jeff has worked with 84% of the Fortune 1000. The strategic partnerships he develops routinely deliver a reduction in injuries with a significant financial impact.


Jeff has spent more than 25 years in ergonomics risk consulting, helping Fortune 1000 companies develop, deploy, integrate and manage effective and sustainable ergonomics, safety and lean production processes.

Prior to joining Marsh, Jeff founded Risk Management Group, an ergonomics consulting group that developed industry-leading ergonomic risk assessment tools and strategies to manage risk exposures. As a problem solver, inventor and innovator, Jeff has helped organizations identify and implement thousands of cost-effective workplace improvements, saving millions of dollars in cycle time reduction, improving injury prevention efforts and introducing quality enhancements.

Jeff has delivered more than 1,800 seminars and trained more than 20,000 people. He regularly shares his expertise and motivational skills at regional and national conferences. Jeff has contributed to more than a dozen training manuals and reference guides which have been translated into several languages.

Additionally, Jeff is a past content contributor to Compliance magazine, Pro-Remodeler magazine, the Nashville Business Journal, the Tennessean newspaper and EHS Today. Jeff is the founder of Music4TNKids, a not-for-profit community organization that helps keep music in Nashville schools.

Professional Affiliations

Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE)
Certified Six-Sigma Green Belt
Certified Lean Manufacturing Practitioner
Member, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES)
Member, Institute for Industrial Engineers (IIE)


BS in industrial engineering, University of Michigan
Continuing education courses through the University of Michigan, Harvard and NIOSH

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