One Man’s Lean Journey: Safety First. What It Truly Means.
Lean and safety go together like peanut butter and jelly. Safety should always come first. Whether the company is trying to implement lean or not. Safety is #1.
The automotive facility I was working at was one of the many places that claimed safety first in everything they did. It wasn’t until the management saw it ranked nearly last among facilities owned by the corporation. This is when the transformation took place.
Safety became a daily discussion in every area. A safety committee formed by employees. Safety bingo with a cash payout began. But the biggest change was came within the management team and how they handled safety concerns and issues. When an accident did occur all management was required to participate in understanding why it happened. Also, anytime there was a requisition making the facility a safer place it was signed…no questions asked. No ROI.
Within two years, the facility was in the Top 5 worldwide for the corporation for safety. The facility surpassed 2.5 million man hours worked without an accident. Employees were correcting other employees when it came to safety concerns.
Actions around safety were clear and concise. There was no room for misinterpretation. A 40 year veteran and amazing tooling engineer got sent home for one week with no pay because he did not lock out / tag out the machine before he went into it. It was shocking but sent a statement.
Contrast that to another facility I was in a few years later where the hearing protection rules were vague and unclear. When approached about this the management team was defensive and was more concerned about the inconvenience of dealing with hearing protection. Two years later the facility had four cases of hearing loss.
Lean or not the automotive facility was truly dedicated to safety.
- Safety first is a mindset. It isn’t just something you do. It is something you believe.
- Being safe and believing in safety are different things.
- The actions of a leadership team give true insight into their belief around safety.