Pointing and Calling: A Unique Japanese Method in Transit Safety

Japan is home to one of the most efficient, precise and safe railway transit systems in the world. To keep the trains running at peak performance and safety, train drivers, conductors and station staff constantly “point and call” (shisa kanko in Japanese) out the status of things they need to regularly check. Train drivers, for example, point at and call out station names as they approach them in order to confirm to other staff and passengers that the drivers see the station and are prepared to stop the train. While the practice may appear to be redundant, evidence shows that pointing and calling improves safety on trains and in stations. In a study conducted by the Railway Technical Research Institute in 1994, pointing and calling was responsible for a remarkable ~85% reduction in mistakes while performing a test of simple, repetitive tasks.

A train conductor in Japan demonstrates pointing and calling.  Courtesy: sandabee

The Japan Industrial Safety and Health Association (JISHA) began to teach pointing and calling in the 1980’s as part of a comprehensive program designed to reduce workplace accidents. The practice did not catch on outside Japan, however. “The emphasis in Europe and the United States has generally been more on reducing accidents by changing machinery and systems, while in Japan it’s been more on improving operator accuracy,” JISHA’s Kazumi Tabata explained. “But you really need to look at both aspects.” Read more here.

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