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Lean Safety – Improve Workplace Safety with Lean Principles

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In today’s competitive market, almost everyone works to find a competitive advantage that enables them to dethrone competition. Several businesses turn to lean concepts to drive better results. Sadly, the term lean is unfortunately often confused. It doesn’t refer to ‘less’, it refers to ‘efficiency’.  Lean safety is a systematic approach to controlling the waste in processes and activities which could cause accidents or illness.  

Lean does not refer to working with fewer resources but to get rid of activities that don’t add much value. 

Lean is often looked at as a manufacturing process, however, it has been proven that these concepts also offer protection and safety. 

Understanding Lean Safety

Lean safety can be defined as a method designed to identify and reduce waste in processes to reduce the risk of workplace illnesses and accidents. 

The term lean often gets associated with Toyota that introduced the world to lean manufacturing. The company’s combined production and management system helped it reach a global status.

As the company grew into a global name, more businesses started to study its tools and methods to know how a small company could reach international success in such an efficient manner. 

Toyota began lean manufacturing to control costs and improve efficiency. If you read the system, you will find that it’s multi-faceted. However, some of its aspects do apply to safety: focus on value, customer orientation, questioning existing wisdom, continuous improvement, efficiency, and elimination of wastes.

Let’s talk about its role in safety:


The 6S Process

Lean has given us a 5S methodology that uses five steps to achieve a tidy and sustainable workplace. These steps are:

  • Sort
  • Straighten
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

We can now add a 6S to this:

  • Safety

We’ll first talk about the 5S’s then look at how lean principles can help us improve workplace safety.


This step refers to getting rid of what you do not need by separating parts, instructions, and tools from unneeded materials. This step usually requires different departments to come together to ensure all important items can be sorted.


Optimize remaining tools, instructions, and parts by carefully identifying and arranging what you need. All the remaining items need to be sorted properly so that they are easy to access when needed.


Conduct a cleanup campaign and clean the area by getting rid of clutter, dust, etc. All employees should understand the importance of keeping their desks and offices clean.


Schedule regular maintenance and cleaning by regularly sorting, straightening, and shining the workspace. This is very important because requirements may change from time to time. 


Make it a habit to always follow the first four S’s and make it a way of life to keep the 5S in your mind when living your life.

When you follow these 5 S’s, the sixth S – safety – will automatically come into play.


How Does 5S Improve Safety?

5S comes with ‘built-in’ safety features, let’s first talk about how the above-discussed methodologies improve safety:

  • Sorting out your work area and removing clutter ensure that you only have the items that you truly need. This leaves more floor space to move around, which results in fewer obstacles. As a result, the risk of tripping over, fire, and other such accidents is greatly reduced.
  • When you straighten what you have and give each tool and item a designated place, you will end up with a neat and proper space. As a result, employees will be less likely to get their hands on the wrong item. This is of huge importance because using wrong items can result in serious injuries and damages. 
  • Cleanliness is directly linked to safety. Something as small as removing dust can result in fewer accidents. A cloth lying around is a fire hazard. Taking care of broken tiles reduces the risk of fall and trip accidents.
  • Standardizing processes are meant to ensure all the workers follow the same routine day in and day out to maintain safety. Following a simple schedule reduces the risk of accidents and malfunctions.
  • At the end of the day, it’s important to sustain your efforts, otherwise, it will all go to waste. Concentrating on only one or not concentrating on a single S will result in poor outcomes. If you want good results then you must sustain your strategy for as long as you can. 

It’s evident that the 5S strategy reduces the risk factor but it’s alone not enough to make a workplace safe and secure. It’s important that you include the sixth S.

The inclusion of safety allows professionals to think specifically about safety at each stage of the 5S process. 

When you look at it, you will notice that the purpose of both 5S and 6S is to prevent wastes by using Mura, Muri, and Muda. Let’s know these terms first:

  • Mura refers to variation or inconsistency.
  • Muri refers to overburden or unreasonable.
  • Muda can be divided into two types and refers to results and activities that need to be eliminated including transport, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, over-processing, defects, and skills.

The 6th ‘S’ gives businesses a chance to develop a safety culture and think about any potential hazards. 

Continuous Improvement for a Safe Workplace

Lean safety can take a while to become a part of your company’s culture. It’s about continuity and the process involves several small changes that eventually result in a significant positive impact.

Research has proven that giving workers the power to change or improve their surroundings can create a thriving and safer workplace. 

Management needs to join hands with employees and make regular improvements that may not show benefits right away but they will eventually result in a safer work environment. 

The fundamental ideas behind the concept are:

  • A continuous process of improvement that takes into consideration different aspects and keeps looking for the next big thing
  • Continuing to make small changes and improvements that have a greater effect over a period of time
  • Empowering employees and giving them the power to suggest changes to the environment including the use of safety technology

It’s quite easy to see the impact of continuous improvements on workplace safety. Businesses need to incorporate safety into their manuals and take care of everything from leadership safety to transportation safety. 

The most important factor is to empower the team to address safety hazards when they come across any. 

Employees should be aware of the production system and the health risks involved in not being careful. 

A poorly designed safety suggestion list will not be of much value. Businesses must create a well-written and complete occupational safety and health guide to improve the process and environmental health.

Giving employees the option to give suggestions to improve safety can be an effective method to push employees to be a part of your safety culture. Plus, it also improves loyalty.

You must ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I doing to empower my team?
  • Are there incentives to encourage workers to give a safety suggestion?
  • Is there a well-defined method to report safety hazards?

Workplace Safety and Kaizen Events

Technically speaking, Kaizen and Kaizen Events are two different concepts designed to perform the same job, make your workplace safer by identifying safety hazards and making safety a continuous process to improve occupational safety.

Kaizen is a long-term commitment. It’s about creating a safety culture that emphasizes incremental improvement amongst the team by making small changes that result in a larger overall change over time.

On the other hand, a Kaizen Event can be defined as a short-term initiative with a predetermined end date. It involves small teams that look at specific elements such as the production system and safety technology to prosper a safer workplace for everyone.

A Kaizen Event can be a good option to get feedback or safety suggestions from a concentrated team. Some experts believe that a Kaizen Event can be an excellent way to improve workplace safety since it involves several team members who usually work in the same area and hence are well aware of its safety requirements. 

Lean Safety – Using Lean Principles to Improve Workplace Safety 

Being lean means avoiding waste and saving money to improve efficiency. As explained earlier, the original lean manufacturing concept arose from Toyota’s popular automotive production system and has been adopted by several big and small businesses since then.

It was after using this concept for years that businesses realized how useful it can be to improve safety. 

Occupational Safety and Health: Combining Lean Manufacturing and Safety and Health

Here are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of injuries and improve safety performance: 

#1 Improve Visual Management and Get Rid of Defects

Identifying and correcting defects is an important part of operations management. Defects require people to break the norm and go outside the established processes, which increases the risk.

Reducing defects doesn’t only reduce health risk and improve safety performance but it can also help you identify poorly designed processes to increase effectiveness and efficiency.

#2 Pay Attention to Improvement Suggestions from Employees

We’ve covered in detail the importance of listening to employees. Since they work on the ground, they are well aware of environmental health and can help you in the elimination of waste. 

Businesses should resort to detailed feedback forms and other such methods to collect improvement suggestions.

#3 Follow the Lean Safety Process and Reduce Inventory

Lean is one of the best ways to improve effectiveness and efficiency. Revisit all the principles of lean and make sure to find their connections to safety. 

A very reliable safety suggestion is to reduce inventory. It doesn’t only improve cash flows and efficiency but also makes the environment safer. 

For example, when there are fewer items, they will not be stacked, hence you will not have to use a ladder to climb up, which reduces the risk of falling and other such accidents.

#4 Reduce Overproduction to Avoid Unnecessary Machine Interactions

Overproduction doesn’t only result in wastage but can also cause health issues. Working for extended hours can cause fatigue, which increases the risk of injuries and workplace accidents. Plus, every time you interact with a machine, there is a risk of things going wrong. 

Avoiding unnecessary interactions, minimizing motions, and turning to best practices is a safety practice that can be a good way to save time and reduce workplace injury risks.

Software To Drive The Process

Using lean management software can streamline the safety process and help you visualize it effortlessly. Continuous improvement becomes a hundred times easier with lean tools like our innovative digital platform. Using the Rever dashboard, you can monitor the performances of teams, understand their impact, and easily identify the people making the biggest difference at your company.

Digital platforms like ours make the entire lean management & safety process easier and more efficient. They provide a single repository for ideas and best practices in your organization so that everyone can benefit from hive knowledge. This is especially helpful for avoiding siloed thinking and opening up communication between teams and departments. Because the information is stored in the cloud, it can be accessed by anyone with a tablet or mobile device. This makes it ideal for frontline factory workers and staff who don’t have easy access to laptops or desktop computers. Ideas and updates can be input on the go while progress reports are available instantly at their fingertips. Our software reduces the need for back and forth emails, spreadsheet plans, and bottlenecks in the flow of information. So, administration is reduced, communication is improved, and time is freed up for the actual implementation of lean processes.

The Rever Cycle is our version of the PDCA methodology that guides teams on the exact steps to follow to execute their own ideas and achieve continuous improvement. It allows them to capture the entire process, from identifying a problem to experimenting and implementing a solution. They can use it to capture the before and after with pictures, notes and drawings, making their ideas a reality in no time. The time of your team is too valuable to be wasted in handmade drawings and complex explanations. So, we created Rever to help you with implementing lean management in your business.

How We Can Help

At Rever, we believe that anybody can be a knowledge worker, contribute to the organization’s success and thrive in their work through their contribution. What makes us human is the capacity to grow our intellect and will, and to use them for good. We observe, especially at work, that most people are asked to stop thinking and do as they are told. We want to change that. We enable people to achieve their full creative potential.

Interested in learning more or implementing your own lean management process? Then request a demo with one of our friendly team.

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