Safety: Is it the Sixth ‘S’ in a 5S system?

05/08/2014


Pre-engineered components are designed to fit multiple configurations and still meet safety standards, making them a sustainable solution. They also include interchangeable parts that bolt together for easy assembly and dismantling when the system needs to be reconfigured or is no longer needed. Standardized components, hardware, and assembly tools eliminate non-value-added activity and waste when reconfiguring for another location. The newly reconfigured access system, with its pre-engineered components, does not compromise worker safety or regulatory compliance, and does not require additional engineering or maintenance resources to design and validate.

Look beyond the cost of safety

Safety and compliance are not simply about reducing the costs associated with incidents, insurance premiums, or fines for noncompliance. On the contrary, safety and compliance programs that consider efficiency are more likely to encourage investments in safety that reduce workplace incidents and produce a higher return.

Capital is considered to be one of three crucial elements of best-in-class safety in addition to culture and compliance, according to a January 2014 Rockwell Automation article, Safety Maturity: Three Crucial Elements of Best-in-Class Safety. Capital refers to technology investments that help companies not only meet safety regulation, but also improve performance. Referencing our previous example, a company invests in a crossover stair and work platform system to gain greater utility and efficiency versus investing in a ladder. Both support compliance; however the ladder can carry a greater safety risk.

A company cannot simply "buy" safety. Although companies with best-in-class safety programs invest in technology and equipment that reduces risk to safety, they also invest in people and processes. These organizations operate from a risk management model, which guides decision making. Risk management models help companies assess and rank risk factors and encourage a level of investment that's commensurate with the risk.

Developing safe, efficient processes and training colleagues on how to follow them is a practice found at best-in-class organizations. It takes a financial and time commitment. More importantly, effective safety programs require leadership support at the highest levels.

Safety is everyone's business

Safety rarely trickles up. Leadership support of safety programs fosters a culture of safety and empowers colleagues to identify safety issues and take corrective action. Studies show that employee participation in health and safety programs increases their engagement and productivity. Some even suggest that when employees are directly involved in their safety and that of their colleagues, they often "go the extra mile" for the company.

The hypercompetitive business world may tend to put productivity and profits ahead of safety. These important aspects of running a successful business can co-exist without one compromising the other.

Opportunity exists for businesses to combine productivity tools such as Reliability Based Maintenance, 5S, and other Lean principles with risk management models to achieve safety and productivity and do so profitably.

Tom Semiklose is the executive vice president of sales for SafeRack and its sister companies ErectaStep, RollaStep, and YellowGate. He can be reached at tsemiklose@saferack.com.

Key Points:

  • In successful manufacturing plants, safety is part of the same continuous improvement programs that drive productivity, efficiency, and business results.
  • Companies with best-in-class safety programs invest in people and processes, not just technology and equipment.
  • Studies show that employee participation in health and safety programs increases their engagement and productivity.
  • Whether part of a formal 5S system or not, safety management should be an integral part of all plant operations.

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