First, let’s understand the concept of safety.
Safety is defined as “relative freedom from danger, risk, or threat of harm, injury, or loss to personnel and/or property, whether caused deliberately or by accident” as per BusinessDictionary.com. So being in a safe situation or behaving in a safe manner means you are minimizing the risk of harm, injury, or loss.
We want to behave safely, we want to exist in safe scenarios, and we want those around us to behave safely as well. So we need safe people and we need safe environments.
Now let’s look at safe environments. When all potential risks to safety are identified, acknowledged, addressed, and (hopefully) removed you can make it very easy for safe people to continue behaving safely. This means minimizing pinch points, eliminating slip and trip hazards on floors, reducing excess motion and strain when items are easy to find and reach, locations for all items (raw materials, finished goods, machines, tools, tables) and definition of those specific locations so consistency and standardization can exist (whether the locations are marked or not, which they should be) and there is nothing in a work area that shouldn’t be there.
With safe work environments, it’s a lot easier to facilitate safe behaviors. Why? Because an unsafe behavior will appear as an anomaly in the safe work environment.
Is there a box in this area that doesn’t belong? A safe environment can make that box stick out like a sore thumb.
There’s oil on the floor. In an unsafe, dirty environment you might not be able to tell.
All of the above scenarios are heavily impacted by 5S. An organized, clean, and visually-indicating environment will improve communication and minimize risk of safety “surprises.” With an environment that has implemented 5S concepts, it will become very evident that something is not right when an anomalous condition exists.
However, safe behaviors include more than just maintaining a safe work area. It also requires proactive continuous improvement ideas to be collected and implemented. If an operator has an idea about making his/her work cell safer while also maintaining or improving quality or productivity, this empowerment must be emphasized and praised.
No one wants to work in an unsafe location. Facilitate the ideas of work cell users or process owners and help to get their ideas implemented, because it’s going to instill a greater sense of connection between the owner and the environment and indicate to the users that they have the power to make change happen.
But safety is more than just 5S. It also is impacted by the Lean wastes.
For example, overproduction creates excess inventory and potential area clutter. A work cell that is cluttered with lots of extra stuff on the floor can be a tripping hazard and force operators to move around barriers or other personal space invaders. That excess production needs extra transportation to take it away, and more vehicles moving around a plant means more potential crashes and more danger.
Also, Lean looks to reduce excess strain on workers. By minimizing how much operators must bend down, stand up, walk around, stretch to reach, and apply repetitive motion, processes can be completed with less effort and minimal physical impact.
It doesn’t take much to realize that a Lean environment is a safe and ergonomically-efficient environment (and vice versa).
A couple other resources about Lean and safety:
IMEC.org’s .pdf on Lean and Safety
LeanBlog.org blog post connecting Lean and Safety
Another blog’s post about “What is safety?”
Lean-safety.blogspot.com – Author Robert Hafey’s blog about Lean and Safety