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The Safety Brief In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews
and insights into how contractors and safety managers
can be even more effective in protecting their workers.
In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews and insights into how contractors and safety managers can be even more effective in protecting their workers.

Lean Safety

Lean safety is the result of implementing “lean” methodology. Lean makes businesses less wasteful, more efficient and more profitable. An efficient workplace is a safer workplace.

Simultaneous increases in efficiency and safety are seen at a Minnesota factory. The assembly line was dismantled and repositioned so workers did not have to physically move materials manually or with vehicles. Lean safety was implemented using 5S to improve equipment and workflow.

There are five steps to initiate a lean safety program: determine goals, inform employees, put new systems in place, provide training, and assess regularly.


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Lean_safety-Creative_Safety_Supply-250x250Dan Clark: When an engine is running lean, it’s running efficiently. When a business is running lean, it’s running efficiently and safely. 

Hello, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief. This is where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.

Lean. What is lean? For that engine, it’s about not using too much fuel. In lean manufacturing, it’s much the same. An efficient workflow is a safer workflow. Yeah, lean manufacturing principles can make a workplace more efficient AND safer. Not just one or the other. Lean is a methodology which aims to make businesses less wasteful, more efficient and more profitable.

So, how does this relate to safety? Consider an example lean project: A factory in Minnesota wanted to reposition its assembly line to make workflow work better. Originally, their machinery was positioned so that workers spent a lot of time moving materials from one station to the next. Now, THERE is a safety hazard. Physically carrying materials by hand or with vehicles.

Managers switched to a U-shaped assembly line to get rid of the sloppy workflow and safety risks. To accomplish this, managers implemented 5S:

  • Sort
  • Set In Order
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

They sorted all the machinery, tools and other equipment and put everything back in a more useful arrangement. They cleaned and added helpful visual markings. During the cleaning, they also found old, worn floor markings, so they replaced those with floor marking tape.

The end result: The U-shaped assembly-line increased efficiency and increased safety.

To start a lean program there are five main steps.

1. Determine Goals. Figure out what you want to gain from implementing lean. Is production too slow? Are you making defective products? Make sure lean changes will get you closer to your goal, not farther away.

2. Inform Employees. When workers know changes are coming, and why they’re coming. they’ll be less resistant.

3. Put New Systems In Place. These could be new tools or machines, visual signs, or rearranging the workspace. Don’t do it while they work. Try to do this during downtime when employees are off-site, but make sure to involve them in the planning of the changeover process.

4. Provide Training. Workers will need to understand the changes in normal operations and how their work may change.

5. Assess Regularly. Monitor the new processes to be sure your changes stick. The first few months are critical. Ask yourself “Are you getting closer to your goals?” You should see it efficiency and safety increase.

That’s all for this episode. Come back for more tips and techniques on how to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, sponsored by Creative Safety Supply. See the website at


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