Category Archives: Safety

Guest Post: The Role of Protection in Preventing Injuries

Today’s guest post comes from Danielle M.  She has been a dedicated student of Lean Manufacturing methodologies since 2006. It was love at first sight when she read the motto, “Everything has a place; everything in its place” in her first copy of The Toyota Way.

Many businesses, factories and corporations are picking up on lean manufacturing processes. Lean manufacturing focuses on cutting waste and other unnecessary parts of production to efficiently build a product that is focused on providing value to customers. This involves looking at a product from the consumer’s perspective and removing anything that is not necessary for a good user experience.

Overall, lean manufacturing is designed to save money while still delivering a valuable final product. However, it is very important to note the difference between lean manufacturing and “cutting corners.” Lean process promotes removal of waste for the sake of efficiency; it does not promote the cutting of vital parts of production. It could be argued that the most vital part of any production line is safety. Good safety ensures the health and well being of factory workers and saves manufacturers money in the long run by preventing injuries. With a necessary investment upfront, good safety measures can become a central part of any lean operation.

Innovations

Technology continues to advance, which not only makes the work done within factories easier, but also allows factories to be safer places for employees to work. Certainly, robotics has made production quicker and safer, as robots can complete jobs that may be dangerous to humans. Protecting those human employees has become easier, as well. New developments in the equipment employees wear allow them to be kept safer on the job while improving functionality. Safety goggles are becoming increasingly stronger while still allowing clarity, and flame retardant suits are continuing to evolve in safety standards. While these innovative technologies evolve, they are not in all cases becoming more expensive. In fact, new technologies can sometimes come in the form of cheaper materials, providing greater safety at a lower price point.

Prevention

Of course, preventive measures and practices play a significant role in making a work environment safer. Having protective equipment onsite at all times is necessary to providing safety. To keep with lean practices, it may be necessary to establish a vendor-managed inventory system so that you never run out of any protective equipment you require. Once a vendor establishes the inventory system, you can implement lean 5S tactics—Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain—to keep everything in proper order. Using 5S to establish a good inventory system provides safer environments by preventing clutter and saves employees time in their search. That said, properly training employees on where to get the protective equipment and how to properly use it is also important.

Design

Lean processes put an emphasis on the streamlined design of a plant. Given the number of specific machines and other tools needed to complete projects, factories and plants can easily become cluttered and poorly designed. As employees need to move through other parts of a plant in order to complete their jobs, they are increasing the likelihood of injury. By creating a smooth transition from one piece of a job to the next and organizing each area, employees are less likely to run into hazards when on the job.

Do you have your own safety guidelines that also work to help your bottom line? Do you have questions about implementing cost-effective protection and prevention measures? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

Guest Post: 5S-ing: The First Step to Safety

Today’s guest post comes from Danielle M.  She has been a dedicated student of Lean Manufacturing methodologies since 2006. It was love at first sight when she read the motto, “Everything has a place; everything in its place” in her first copy of The Toyota Way.

We are always looking for ways to reduce costs and increase productivity. Maybe it’s time to grab a broom and clean up our act! The 5S methodology is one way to organize your facilities to get the most out of your space. Japanese manufacturing created this method to reduce shop floor and manufacturing accidents and waste, and increase productivity.

The five points on which 5S focuses are:

  • Sort
  • Set in Order
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

While it’s obvious to most that an organized environment is a “better” environment, in practice, we don’t do this very often. The 5S method is based on the simple premise that an organized (shop floor, factory, construction site, etc.):

  • is more productive
  • is safer
  • meets deadlines
  • generates fewer defects
  • is less chaotic

Each of the 5S steps contributes to improving the safety and productivity of the physical environment. So grab your broom and trash can and let’s get started!

Keep Only What You Need – Discard the Rest (Sort)

This is the opposite of the “pack rat” who saves everything because “we might need it some day.” The result is a shop floor or warehouse cluttered with items you can’t use and are just taking up space. We waste time looking for what we need in the middle of all the junk we’ve accumulated. Boxes of lose parts sit in the aisle and block exits creating safety hazards. Prioritize all that stuff. Keep what you need and get rid of the rest.

Create a Home for Everything (Set in Order)

Once the clutter is gone, put everything in its own place, mark it properly and document where it is. We take care to put customer products in their proper bins with the correct SKU, but tools, equipment and supplies don’t get the same attention. Hardware retailers often set up their inventory based on the type of equipment the user is looking for; this type of methodology also carries over to the workplace so that workers know or can learn where equipment is at all time. Every time someone has to search for something because it’s not in the right place is lost productivity. The new guy is always asking where something is!

Keep Things Clean (Shine)

Work and storage areas all need to be clean. It’s not just cosmetic; things work better when they’re clean and well maintained. While it may be the last thing employees do at the end of the day, keeping things clean is still a priority. Leaks and spills can be dangerous and create a safety hazard. Create a standard of cleanliness for an area and make sure it gets that treatment everyday.

Create Repeatable Processes (Standardize)

As your efforts to implement 5S produce results, document this and create procedures to be followed each shift to keep things that way. Be as organized with your documentation as you were with your shop floor/warehouse. Your procedure manual puts the broom in the hands of your employees to do their part.

Creating discipline in the work place means giving your employees the same procedures, same tools and same work spaces in which to be productive. Productivity is easier to measure when everyone is working from the same page. Make sure that page is clear to everyone!

Evaluate and Make Needed Changes (Sustain)

A key to the 5S methodology working is continual evaluation and improvement. Where are there still code violations, employee safety hazards or other impacts to productivity? Change what’s not working and modify what is working to make it work better. There are many procedure manuals just sitting on the shelf collecting dust because they are outdated. Don’t let yours join the clutter!

Using the 5S method means taking a few simple steps to get the most out of what you already have. Create a leaner environment in which employees are safer and more productive. The broom is in your hands!

Injuries are OK…as Long as We Have Fewer Than Last Year

How many times have you heard, “Safety is our #1 concern.  Safety above all else.”?  I have heard it with every company I have been a part of.  The very first thing I ask when I hear this remark is, what is your safety goal for this year?  To date, I have NEVER had anyone say zero.  In every case, it is some percentage reduction of injuries from the previous year.

If safety is so important, why can’t the stated goal be zero accidents/injuries?  I always follow up my first question with a second question asking if any accident/injury is OK.  I always get a resounding no.  So why is management afraid to state a goal of zero accidents/injuries?

I know stating it is one thing and behaviors are another.  You can state zero accidents but never do anything about it.  But, if you are serious about safety and will do whatever it takes to make sure no one gets hurt, then state that no accidents are acceptable at all.  Set the goal to zero.

I have been apart of a couple of companies that took safety very seriously.  One company had every computer boot up and display the corporate safety metrics, goals, and recent accident reports.  No one could turn this off.  It was visual and created a lot of talk about safety each and every day.  The display showed the current Year-To-Date metrics for every facility.  The company backed up this talk by spending money on safety whenever it was needed.  I can’t even recall a Return-On-Investment study ever being completed.  Also, every meeting had to start with a safety tip.  It might be a work safety tip, ergonomic tip, or a safety tip for home.  Not matter what safety was suppose to start every meeting.

Another facility I worked for won one of the worldwide safety awards after three years of improving to a near zero accident facility.  The plant manager never even hesitated to spend the money if it was truly going to help safety.  Employees were self policing their areas for near misses.  Safety was very important.

Neither company could ever some out and state a goal of zero accidents.  They might state a goal of 2 accidents for the year.  Why not just go ahead and say zero?  What is the hang up with stating this goal?

Money wasn’t just thrown at safety issues in the cases I mentioned.  There was a lot done without spending a dime.  I bring the issue of spending money because I have seen companies ask for a ROI study or payback on things that will improve safety.  Sometimes the improvement is to prevent an accident or injury that might occur.  How do you justify that?

The point is NO injury is acceptable.  Lets have the respect for the people and say that.  Let the people know we do care about their safety.

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