How Lean methods can improve safety: Creating a safety culture

It is important to create a safety culture that works for the employees and supports client success and satisfaction

By Ian Seuser and Jeremy Oliver February 28, 2022
Image courtesy: Brett Sayles

As companies continue to grow, they are constantly striving to pursue a better way. The result is smarter, faster, safer work. We are committed to agile standards and use our three-legged stool model to demonstrate that innovation and agility go hand in hand. The three legs—safety, productivity and quality—support the stool’s top: client success and satisfaction. Each leg is equally important for achieving successful lean projects and a good safety culture. Below, we’ll discuss the first leg of the stool, safety.

How to address safety culture

During detailed planning, it is important to engineer out hazards and always seek the tools and technology that will keep crews working safer. However, eliminating hazards may not be an option, and it’s easy to depend on personal protective equipment (PPE) as a solution. PPE is important, but it should be the last line of defense. Is it something that people need? Absolutely. But is it where people should stop? No, it can’t be.

It’s imperative to ask questions. What is the hazard, and can it be eliminated? Is there a substitution? One example of these questions in action is the common problem of drills twisting wrists. Instead of addressing only the behavior and usage of drills, the hazard can be removed by finding a better drill with a sensor that shuts it off when binding is detected.

Changing the mindset

To be a lean organization, the company must continually look for a better way. This mindset leaves companies open to new possibilities. Studying the methods of Navy Seals could be a good example. During the Navy Seals’ “hell week,” they do an exercise called “surf torture,” an intentionally intimidating name. After rigorous training, the Seals must endure frigid water. One Seal decided to change his mindset on surf torture. He recalled that many star athletes would sit in therapeutic ice baths after training. He changed his thinking of the “surf torture” and other “hell week” activities to benefit him, making everything easier to endure.

People can apply this philosophy in their safety program. If someone changes their mindset, they change the game. Stressing the “why” behind what people do makes their lives better. Instead of saying, “I have to tie off at six feet,” encourage team members to think, “I get to tie off at six feet.” This mindset is key to making lean methods a success.

Behavioral-based safety

Rules and policies are a necessary baseline, but they shouldn’t be the sole focus. Behaviors go much deeper. It’s getting people to do the right thing and avoid risky behaviors, no matter what the rules are. They will choose to tie off at four feet instead of six because it’s safer. Our zero-injury, behavior-based culture means doing what it takes to get home safely every day and making sure those around us do, too.

– This originally appeared on Interstates’ website. Interstates is a CFE Media content partner.

Author Bio: Ian Seuser is the Director of Safety at Interstates. Jeremy Oliver is the Quality Assurance Developer at Interstates.