Improve Safety in Your Plant with Lean

In an average manufacturing plant, the presence of old industrial equipment, bad systems, or untrained workers can mean a higher risk of workplace accidents. In fact, studies show 94 percent of accidents occur because of unsafe actions, at-risk behaviors or poor decisions, while only 6 percent happen as a result of unsafe conditions, OSHA violations, and dangerous machinery. This shows that while compliance is necessary, it does not guarantee things will operate as smoothly as they should.

Safety is about people, which means correcting behavior can be a challenge. But it’s possible to steer your employees in the right direction by engaging them during the continuous improvement process.

The OSHA Safety and Health System Model consists of four categories:

Management Leadership and Employee Involvement: Processes that involve the company coming together to brainstorm and implement solutions to plant issues
Worksite Analysis: Periodic inspections and infra that track near-misses, safety incidents, and accident investigations
Hazard Prevention and Control: Preventative maintenance performed to ensure the operation of a clean, organized facility
Safety and Health Training: Information on how to keep the workplace safe

Many lean manufacturing tools and techniques are designed to support these efforts, including audits, safety metrics, and systems that help track workplace accidents and other safety-related incidents.

But how do you really get employees involved in making your plant a better, safer, and more efficient place to work?

Initiate active conversations.
As an owner or manager, it’s possible you might not spot issues your workers see on an everyday basis. Having open and meaningful discussions about safety and perceived safety hazards can provide insight into what’s on their minds and what issues should be tackled first to ensure the shop floor is a safe place to operate.

Engage in team-based events.
Facilitated by consultants and experts, lean workshops are a great way to reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents. Kaizen events, Gemba walks, and “rattlesnake hunts” involve employees seeking and fixing things thought of as safety hazards, including stray cables, wiring, tools on the floor, and other common issues. These act as a great start to your overall improvement strategy and build better avenues of communication between your workers and higher management.

Incorporate tracking into your existing systems.
Once modifications are underway, you can talk with a lean expert about implementing processes that can enhance safety and prevent issues from reoccurring. Not only does this allow you to see what incidents or near-accidents happen in your plant over time, but your workers can also use it to highlight and prioritize safety concerns, making them an essential part of creating a better place to work.

But no matter what you do, it’s important to remember lean manufacturing – in concept and in practice – is about making changes and eliminating waste. Safety issues are non-value added, and many techniques can be used to attack those issues and challenges that could lead to problems later on. Start considering how these could positively impact your plant, and ultimately lead to the creation of a safer environment where your employees feel safe, heard, and accounted for.

Take the next step in making your operations more efficient and improving the safety of your plant by calling us at 216.391.7766 or emailing Linda Barita at

Posted by Gwido Dlugopolsky in Lean

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