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Kaizen Team

Have you heard the word(s) Kaizen or Kaizen event? It is not a term usually used in corrections. It is the Japanese word for “improvement” and has been adopted in industry to promote joint labor-management solutions with a quick turnaround.

A Kaizen event is a structured process that engages employees and managers at all levels, from line worker to technical expert to senior manager. Key features of a Kaizen event are listing and identifying specific goals, an accelerated time frame to reach the goal, and “at the table” involvement of key managerial personnel and workforce. A Kaizen event is not a single meeting; it may involve multiple sessions over several weeks, but there is a clear goal and a time limit.

In the Health Improvement Through Employee Control II (HITEC II) Study, the Kaizen approach is being used at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center. A team composed of correctional officers, the warden and deputy warden, maintenance, a Department of Administrative Services (DAS) representative and UConn study team members are participating in four Kaizen events that will continue for the next three years. The team will focus on working environment, nutrition, fitness and safety.

The current Kaizen event focuses on the working environment, specifically noise issues and indoor air quality. In June, a new Kaizen team will work on nutrition for corrections officers and staff.

What has the current Kaizen team done?

The Kaizen engaged UConn and outside professionals to help assess the problems of noise and indoor air quality at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center. Noise turned out to be related primarily to communication devices and crowd/inmate noise. The noise levels were sources of stress and of communications problems.

Two certified industrial hygienists accompanied members of the Kaizen team during an onsite evaluation to identify problem areas and potential solutions. This was followed by a survey of correctional officers, which helped the team assess the areas most in need of improvement. This information led to the following plan:

  • Conduct baseline testing at building areas of highest concern, using:
    • Sound level meters and reverberation testing
    • Air quality dosimeters
  • Improve indoor air quality (IAQ) by:
    •  Initiating a strict maintenance schedule for inmates to clean vents
    • Purchasing specialized HEPA vacuums to clean registers and ductwork
  • Address noise issue through:
    • Evaluating acoustic sound-absorbing panels for ceilings/walls of noisiest areas in order to fund a pilot sound-proofing program
    • Redesigning communication headsets/earphones for officer radios
    • Testing acoustic sound-absorbing door seals

Currently, the Kaizen team has made its recommendations and is waiting for cost estimates from manufacturers.

Why are noise control and indoor air quality improvement important?

  • Reduction of noise levels can potentially decrease stress and improve communication between officers so that they feel safer in their environment.
  • Improving air quality in areas of the prison could also decrease stress by helping officers feel more comfortable in the workplace during long shifts.