At its core, lean management (or lean production), is all about eliminating waste during the production of goods and services. Successful implementation of a lean management program includes mapping out the “value stream” of a particular product or service and identifying what steps are redundant, inefficient, unnecessary or wasteful.
Organizations benefit greatly by successfully implementing lean management principles because employees, processes and equipment can produce more value for less effort. The costs of doing business go down and profit margins go up.
One area that’s often overlooked when it comes to implementing lean management within an organization is the company’s safety policies and procedures. Our experience with most large companies working in complex and high risk industrial environments (manufacturing, construction, oil & gas, etc.) is there is a tremendous amount of overlap, redundancy and contradictions within their respective safety management systems.
The argument that companies can get carried away with safety is absolutely true and we see it almost every day. Companies continue to add layer upon layer of work permits, job safety analysis’s, checklists, energy isolations, etc., to the point where it is nearly impossible for employees on the frontlines to remember exactly what paperwork they’re supposed to have to perform the job(let along use it correctly). In more cases than not, we’re setting our teams up for failure.
Lean safety is not about minimizing the amount of safety precautions taken, it’s about making safety management systems more efficient, easier to use and, ultimately, more likely to be followed by employees working out in the field.
For example, does your company utilize a permit to work (work permit) program? How many steps are needed to successfully complete the permit? Is there redundant information required that is also included in the job’s JSA or risk assessment? Are there other forms of paperwork required to perform the task? Do these additional forms require any redundant information to be included?
Our experience is that most employees want to do the right thing when it comes to safety, but they’ve become buried in excessive paperwork that adds no real value to the job. The more layers and/or redundancies a company has within their safety management system, the more apathy employees have towards the process.
Implementing lean safety practices within your organization can help identify redundancies and inconsistencies with your safety management system. Lean safety leads to more efficient and easier to understand policies and procedures which in turn make them easier to be implemented by employees.