Solve safety and maintenance challenges with a sheet of paper
Using a one-point lesson may help address a plant's safety and maintenance challenges.
Of all the things I do in my role as an advisor to those people working in the maintenance and reliability field, the one-point lesson is something on which I continue to get the most positive feedback. One-point lessons can be used in a variety of ways to provide communication on simple ideas. They can be used to:
- Communicate immediately about recent injuries or safety incidents
- Spread the word about recent equipment failures and their root causes
- Clarify confusion about single procedural steps
- Reinforce important operational methods
- Facilitate continuous learning in a simple way
Let’s think about that last bullet point for a minute. Imagine that you gather your team for 15 minutes every week. For example, you hold this meeting every Wednesday morning at the beginning of a shift. Assume that during this 15 minutes we talk about safety, the company’s current performance against important metrics, and a timely one-point lesson.
Now imagine we go through this meeting process for the next year. Subtracting holidays and vacations, you will still have north of 40 touch points with your team. How far will they grow in this year? How much will they learn? How long will it take till they no longer need you to facilitate this Wednesday get together, but rather are willing and able to do it all on their own? This is how we drive a team to success; one idea at a time.
Five steps to creating an OPL
The concept behind a one-point lesson is keeping the meeting process simple. Here are the five steps to creating an effective one-point lesson:
- Use only one side of one sheet of paper to communicate an idea.
- Relay only one idea per one-point lesson (the title was kind of a give away).
- Think: More pictures/graphics, fewer words.
- The one-sheet is more effective when written by people who are on the front-lines.
- Make each one sheet timely. For example, they should follow a recent failure or mistake that was made.
Examples of an OPL
1. Equipment Failures
This one-point lesson was made to explain the operation of a simple seal pot arrangement used to cool and flush a double mechanical seal arrangement. It turns out that when we started to discuss the care of this critical equipment, almost no one really understood how it worked (present company included). With one piece of paper we changed all of that.
2. Safety Concerns
Here is an associate prepared to work on the Clean in Place System (CIP), which contains caustic chemicals. We could tell him to wear a poly suit, nitrile gloves, and neoprene shoe covers (to which he would likely reply “what is a poly suit”), or, we could say, look like this picture when you work on the CIP system.
The beauty of the one-point lesson is in its simplicity of delivery, and the ease with which you (or anyone for that matter) can create them. To illustrate this point, here is a challenge to you. Reach over to that printer and pull out a blank piece of paper. In the next 5 minutes let’s see you create a one-point lesson on some recent safety, equipment failure, or procedural issue that has bothered your organization in the last week. Sketch a simple cartoon where the pictures would go – we can take pictures later. Now clean this up and let’s get it out to your people!
Mike Gehloff has worked in the maintenance and reliability discipline for over 20 years with a wide range of experience both as a practitioner and a consultant. His particular area of expertise lies within the social sciences related to the discipline, particularly in the work control (maintenance planning and scheduling), operator care, and management systems areas.