Lean safety, a concept to improve company safety culture

When Lean and Safety are combined, it will result in easier and safer working conditions.

Do it right the first time

It will also result in fewer mistakes and fewer corrective measures. Do it right the first time. After reading the book “Lean Safety” by Bob Hafey it is more than ever clear that Lean and Safety work very well together and actually one cannot succeed without the other. Please realise that there are other benefits to a lean programme than just saving lives, time or money, such as: quality, ergonomics, reduced search time, morale, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction/retention, pleasant and organised workplace, etc.

A well-organised workplace results in a safer, more efficient and more productive operation. It boosts employees’ morale, promoting a sense of pride in their work and ownership of their responsibilities. Lean management is a manufacturing philosophy that reduces the total cycle time by eliminating waste (it can also comprise non-value adding steps) or, in other words, by increasing efficiency. It is based on KaiZen (continuous or never-ending improvement) by means of improving the operating culture within a company.

Common sense not common anymore

It is painful to conclude that we have arrived at a point in time where we need to consciously consider management tools to help us behave in a respectful manner. But day-to-day practice shows that more complex business processes and shareholder value focus have driven us away from normal common-sense values or, in other words, common sense is not that common any more.

The top-down approach will no longer have the desired effect of rectifying this lack of safe behaviour. We are convinced that shop floor employees need to be engaged to get from compliance-based systems to proactive loss-prevention systems. Focus on safety is about respect for people. Safety is important and each of us has a responsibility for our own safety and the safety of others.

The use of a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) is a good way of performing the lean approach. It helps to identify the existing or potential hazards of a job, which can then be analysed and recorded.

A JSA, or better still, a written work procedure based on it, can form the basis of regular contact between supervisors and employees. It can serve as a teaching aid for initial job training and as a briefing guide for infrequent tasks. It may be used as a standard for health and safety inspections or observations. In particular, a JSA will assist in completing comprehensive accident investigations.
Four basic stages in conducting a JSA are:

  • selecting the job to be analysed
  • breaking the job down into a sequence of steps
  • identifying potential hazards
  • determining preventive measures to overcome these hazards

More details can be found at www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/hsprograms/ job-haz.html

A change in mindset 

A change in mindset from Safety Compliance towards Safety Improvement is what is needed and a cultural shift from a top-down management structure to a team-based structure can facilitate this change.

Although the top-down approach will no longer work, it is executive management that must assume the role of facilitator. For effective decision making, there needs to be a flow down of Responsibility, Authority and Accountability (RAA) to the teams from the lean programme management. Organisational space has to be created to allow employees to continuously think about ways of improving their part of the process.

This breaking down per sub-process or departmental approach is known as Kobestu KaiZen or Blitz KaiZen. In general, the entire focus of KaiZen is on perfecting business operations and includes the following steps:

  1. Involve the people who implement the value stream or work process being improved. This allows the people closest to the problem to make an impact.
  2. Focus on making improvements by detecting and eliminating waste, hazards and unsafe conditions.
  3. Use a problem-solving approach that observes how the work process operates, uncovers waste. Generate ideas on how to eliminate waste, increase safety and make other improvements.

Process mapping

Process mapping or calue stream mapping is used to graphically display the steps in a process. This visual method of process evaluation and improvement involves everyone. When implemented effectively it can eliminate the need for conversation to make information and ideas accessible to everyone. Activities can be merged in a standardised fashion on one A3 sheet. The following items can be combined on the front and back of an A3 form:

  • Work process map
  • Problem identification and solving
  • Goal setting and auditing, Plan-Do-Check-Act (seven steps: define problem, analyse problem, identify cause, plan solution, implement solution, confirm results, standardise)

Both a current state and a future or de sired state map should be completed during lean events. This standardisation in an A3 form helps you to be concise and to-the-point and it reduces preparation time.

Important to learn from losses

Learning from losses and accidents is a very important part of any improvement process. Lean thinking can turn every incident into a safety improvement. Learning from losses should never be a blame game, but a process review and an improvement initiative.

Facilitators should have the right questions, not the right answers. Focus on the process as the problem, not on the operator. Operators do not come to work to do a bad job or get injured, but they often have to work with poor processes, which yield poor results. Try to identify the root cause of the problem. Use tools such as “the 5 Whys”.

Good Housekeeping

Another strong element of the lean approach is Good Housekeeping. Here there is a choice between two methods:

  1. Tuttava® as developed by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.
  2. The more disseminated and popular 5S (five S), an effective system of risk control in the workplace.

Tuttava® is easy to apply to virtually every workplace or situation and If engineers have been familiar with this approach for many years.

The term 5S is a reference to five Japanese words that describe standardised clean up and they stand for: Sort, Straighten, Shine, Systemise and Sustain. It is a structured programme to systematically achieve total organisation, cleanliness and standardisation in the workplace.

The overriding idea behind 5S is that there is “a place for everything and everything in its place”. Every item that is used in a business process should be clearly labelled and easily accessible. Discipline, simplicity, pride, standardisation and repeatability as emphasised in the Five Ss are critical to the lean enterprise in general and flow implementations specifically.

Cleaning is everyone's responsibility

Cleaning must be carried out by everyone in the organisation, from operators to managers. It is a good idea to have every area of the workplace assigned to a person or group of persons for cleaning. No area should be overlooked. Everyone should see the “workplace” through the eyes of a visitor – always considering if it is clean enough to make a good impression.

Many companies fail in their efforts to sustain for several reasons:

  • Too broad an approach
  • Not implementing mistake-proof devices (poka yoke = fail safe)
  • Lack of preventive maintenance activity
  • Lack of accountability for follow through and follow up. Process ownership must be clear. Each defined business process should have an individual assigned to monitor and direct that process.

With the focus on safety, the chances of success increase. Another benefit from focusing on safety rather than only cost-saving is that it makes it less threatening and more acceptable to those who do not understand the true meaning of lean and have only heard that it is a management tool for down-sizing organisations.

Lean Safety, transforming Your Safety Culture with Lean Management, Robert B. Hafey, CRC Press, ISBN 978-1-4398-1642-4

Article by

Mak Olieman

Risk Engineer
Risk Management, If

Salla Lind-Kohvakka

Development Manager,
Risk Management, If

Contact Salla Lind-Kohvakka