Lean and safety

I am looking to see how we can use Lean to support saftey across our manufacturing organisations. We have a strong focus on employee engagement and I am wondering if we can tap into this to strengthen our safety culture. Does anyone have any expereince of using Lean in this way - apart from the obvious 5S +1 !
Many Thanks


I am in the process of implementing a 5S for Safety program. Its a 2 pronged approach - a formal audit team and a every day-all the time employee red tag approach. I have attached the short presentation I gave to our safety committee explaining the process. Take a look!
5S For Safety Program_web.ppt

I like your red tag approach. Could you provide the 5S form and audit sheet so that it is readable?



First, I applaud your thinking. I believe that having a safe environment is a way to show Respect for People, and a good foundation folr thinking about the workplace--nobody can continuously improve a process that they are afraid of!

In terms of what to do, other than 5S--what do you do today if you have a safety event? Do you find the root cause, and adopt countermeasures to prevent it in the future? Do you communicate the outcome, and look across to similar situations that could benefit from the same countermeasures? Do you blame the victim, or look for systemic problems? If you take a safe environment as the normal (good) condition, and an unsafe one as abnormal (bad) then a lot of lean tools look applicable, just like solving any other kind of problem.

thankyou for your reply. We work with problem solving to get down to the root cause of any accident and the philosphy is "what happened" rather than "who did it". We have safety Risk assessements for our events as an integral part of the kaizen as well as systematic RAs for standard running. We are getting better at sharing across the business - we now have a system and structure to support this. I guess my question is about which specific Lean tools have been used with saftey to get a better result.



Hi Dave

thanks for the presentation - it will be a big help to extend our 5S thinking into safety


Great work on the PPT I am very interested in finding out what other tools and supplies you use in you 6s program. We have used a lot of labels and floor signs on the visual side of 6s I think this is were we got the labels from creative safety supply. I really like how you but the PPT together it was easy to follow and it looks like can be used in most facilities.

Hi Neil

Though it may not always be beneficial to establish a quote of improvement efforts, it is often done in many organizations. I know of several that actually require a certain number per person and to focus effort on safety they required a fairly high percentage of them to be safety related. Though personally I prefer push that at least 20% of all kaizen improvements be safety related, by clearly making safety a key issue it gets people to focus their thought on it, instead of just leaving it to others to do. After all we are all to busy at work most of the time, so human nature will dictate that anything not required will get ignored for a later date.


I think its a good idea to force a culture change towards saftey by setting a target to achieve 20% safety kaizens. This would work well in our environement.

many thanks for your input.


If you read Steven Spear's excellent book 'Chasing the Rabbit' (renamed to 'The High Velocity Edge') you will find an example where the head honcho of Alcoa wanted a report on any lost time injury anywhere, within 24 hours. The result was not just better safety, but also better quality and lower costs. The explanation is that by understanding the processes enough to make them safer, everything improved (read the book for a better explanation).

It kind of looks like the reverse of what you are asking - instead of using Lean for Safety, Safety was the key to Lean. To me, the key was that the CEO was directly involved and showed he cared. So the advice is not to pick up a hammer and look for nails, but find your need and get folks involved.

To your question, then, publicize every injury and the efforts to prevent recurrence. This will hold management's feet to the fire for action (as opposed to ppt or culture classes). Take suggestions for better conditions seriously - Publish the suggestions (big visual board to celebrate improvements). Then, the ideas for better ways to work will start to affect the product.....


Hi Dan
thank you for your reply. You have identified many ideas which I think we will find very useful. You are right ot keep the focus on saety as number 1. I was lucky enough to visit the Toyota engine plant in the UK this week and I could see how their culture pervades saftey first.


Neil, Can you elaborate a little on your visit to the Toyota engine plant and how they incorporated safety? Do you know if they were using kaizen's a lot specifically for safety? Were team leaders on a quota for safety suggestions? Any other thoughts you can share?

HI Neil,

Currently im engaging for Safety and Ergonomics for 10 major factories including 12000 emploees.
I think i can share my experiances and the way how we drive it.

pls send me your mail addy to [email protected]


I am a project manager with the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Georgia Tech. We have a 3-day course introducing an integrated approach to Lean and Safety that brings together some of the most effective methods from both fields. There are two sections coming up: Atlanta (October 16-18) and Savannah (November 6-8). This course was developed jointly between our Lean group and OSHA group at Georgia Tech. A free whitepaper describing our efforts in Lean & Safe is located at:


Tom Sammon
Georgia Tech
Atlanta GA

 I suggest collecting data on workplace injuries or near misses, and addressing the most frequent incidents. If you see relationships in the data, it may also point you to a high leverage work center/process/etc. Then do a 5-Why analysis to find the root cause, develop actions to eliminate and then eliminate the root cause.

Another approach, which I prefer over Lean in relations to safety, is to implement the DuPont STOP program. One action within STOP is the "Safety Walk" initiative which to me is powerful. It is not strictly Lean, but is highly effective in improving workplace safety.

Hi Neil,

Personally I don't like the 5S + 1 idea, because it limits safety to "no injuries in manufacturing". Safety includes feeling safe to report mistakes, feeling safe to put quality before output, to report unsafe situations, etc.

Issues like safety can not be limited to manufacturing, make sure to extend it to the entire plant including the offices. Maybe there are not many accidents, but dangerous situations are common: blocked emergency exits is just one example.

Make sure every one knows the safety standards, teams track their own safety record and report dangerous situations, narrow escapes and accidents. Make sure management follows up on that. For me, daily meetings start with 'people subjects" like safety. Mark every day on a calendar; green for no injuries, red for any other.

You write you have a strong focus on people engagement - the most power tool for safety is leading by example...


How or why does 5S+1 limit safety to manufacturing?

I don't do 5S+1; I do 5S. The first S is Sort, and we need to remove anything not needed. That includes injuries or illness. Certainly those things are are not needed, so remove them.

I don't see how 5S is limited in anyway to manufacturing, in fact, if 5S is not practiced everywhere, it won't be sustained anywhere.

Hi Neil

Lookup TWI Institute, they have several programs related to safety improvement, including TWI-JS (Job Safety). The TWI-JI (Job Instruction) program is also very powerful in safety improvement, part of this program is to break down a task and identify the Key Points and Reasons for the Key Points. There are three Key Points to look for and one of them is identified by will it "injure the worker". I have found this to be very powerful in prevention of safety issues as the TWI programs are owned and executed by the workers actually performing the tasks.

I just found out about a month ago that almost half of the deaths in the country could have been prevented with good housekeeping.

Take a look at the attached picture. I use it in my 5s persentations. If you use 5s in that office, all hazards would be fixed in that picture. You do not need another S to support safety. 5S will help saftey if done correctly.

Our 3 priorities are Safety, Quality, and Productivity, in that oreder. 5S helps with all three.

Many times a safety problem is also a 5S problem.



In my experience people limit their thinking to: safety = no injuries, injuries hapen in factories, warehouses etc, but not the offices. This seems to support their (wrong)assumption/opinion that lean is for manufacturing.

As I wrote, for me, safety is more than no/few injuries and no/few illness.

I like your approach to include injuries and illness as something that can be removed - I've been focussing on the hardware in my 5S activities.

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