Tag Archives: Safety

The Sixth “S”

We are pleased to present this guest blog post by Pete Baril, Health and Safety Manager at Michigan Technological University

Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain. We know it like the back of our hand. The 5S process is an excellent Lean tool for decluttering, organizing, and improving efficiency, but it can also be part of the foundation for another very important S, Safety.

We’ve all been there, either at home or at work, fumbling around in a cluttered mess trying to get something done. We trip, grab the wrong tool, or spill something; a virtual gauntlet of hazards placed before us simply due to a poorly maintained workspace. Poor housekeeping not only detracts from efficiency and progress, it’s also a safety problem.

Housekeeping is central to a safe and well-run workspace. In a previous life I was a health inspector, charged with evaluating restaurants on food safety and sanitation. I could tell within five minutes of entering a facility whether or not it was going to be a good day or a bad day, simply based on the organization and housekeeping of the operation. Currently, my professional focus is on safety, and when I evaluate a workspace the results are no different; poor organization and housekeeping almost always equal safety violations and unsafe work practices.

Keeping up with safety requirements can be daunting, and when operating in a poorly kept space, the problem is compounded. Give yourself a chance by practicing the 5S process throughout your workspace. Improved housekeeping can do wonders for your efficiency, not to mention your stress levels. An organized space promotes safety by providing clear workspaces free of trip hazards and poorly stored items. Good housekeeping also prevents us from having to use the wrong tool for the job, as the right one is no longer “lost.” In addition to the many other safety benefits of an organized space, good housekeeping practices demonstrate a level of control over the process that brings with it efficiency, pride, and an improved outlook on the task at hand. All this from something as basic as housekeeping.

In closing, please keep in mind, as you strive to become lean, also strive to improve safety. Your co-workers, clients, and family will appreciate it.

Making Safety a Part of Your Lean Practice

Implementing safety and Lean together can help your organization increase productivity by reducing the wastes associated with a hazardous environment. Lean and other continuous improvement methodologies enable a safety-focused environment, by using problem solving and root cause analysis to correct the true cause of safety hazards in the workplace.

Here are some examples of how you can use Lean to make improvements to safety and increase safety awareness in your workplace:

  • Reducing excess inventory helps increase floor space and reduces potential tripping hazards. Other safety related to storage solutions might include avoiding piling boxes or other supplies on top of filing cabinets, shelves, etc.
  • While investigating workplace incidents, the “5 Whys” could be used to get down to the root causes of the accident and make improvements to prevent the error from occurring again. But remember, almost all system failures result from a combination of a number of factors and failures. You must continue to probe the circumstances, rules, policies, and people around the incident to search for all of the root causes.
  • Error-proofing can be used to avoid or prevent safety hazards.
  • Having “a place for everything and everything in its place” ensures that items are put back where they belong, and can be put back in a safe location.
  • When process mapping, safety risks can also be identified as improvement opportunities so that these risks can be mitigated.
  • Tracking  metrics related to safety can help identify any trends that may exist regarding safety incidents in order to identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Standard work can be created for workplace safety procedures in order to ensure that the task is completed safely each time.
  • Safety topics, recent safety incidents, and safety metrics can all be discussed in daily team meetings to increase safety awareness.
Example safety metric.

Those are a few examples of how an organization can make safety a part of their Lean culture. Keep in mind, a successful safety culture requires the same management support and participation as successfully making Lean a part of your organization’s culture!