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Workplace Safety and 5S Methodology – Workplace Safety Series 2 of 3

In the first of our three-part series, “Can Workplace Safety Drive Manufacturing Performance?” we looked at the connection between high-performance manufacturers who also have low incident and injury rates. This second post in our series explains how workplace safety is often a positive outcome of applying lean manufacturing principles, particularly the 5S Methodology.

5S Methodology is a way of organizing the work area for optimum efficiency. What many manufacturers find is that optimizing workplace efficiency also optimizes safety. Take the first three S’s—Sort, Straighten/Sift and Sweep. All three S’s encourage a workplace that’s free of clutter and debris by only keeping the needed tools in an easily accessible place, arranging tools in an orderly workflow and removing the potential for incidents related to trips or falls.

The fourth S—Standardize— supports the first three S’s. It promotes interchangeability by using uniform procedures, which leads to more standardized processes. Only the tools and equipment required to complete a procedure should be readily accessible in the work area. Items that are not used as frequently are kept in a designated space where they won’t interfere with the flow of more frequently followed processes.  The old adage applies here, “There’s a place for everything and everything in its place.”

Workplace Safety and Reliability Based Maintenance (RBM)

Finally, Reliability Based Maintenance (RBM) is another program that contributes to a safer workplace. In fact, the Aberdeen research cited in the first post indicated that Best-in-Class companies had a five percent higher Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) rating compared to that of Average performers and a 14 percent higher OEE compared to Laggards.

Lack of routine maintenance leads to emergency repair. In an attempt to minimize downtime, workers rush to complete repairs, which result in poor housekeeping. Debris and clutter left in the work area presents a safety hazard. The potential downtime of a recordable incident or lost time accident further erodes OEE.

Many lean practitioners believe that safety is inherent to lean. The data appear to support their belief. What do you think?

Learn how your facility can improve workplace safety and productivity.