One of the foundational cornerstones of workplace safety is good housekeeping. In simple terms, you need a well-organized, clean workplace that is free of clutter and congestion. The 5S methodology is foundationally the same as the principle of good housekeeping. In fact, these two cornerstones have very much in common. Just as you cannot achieve true workplace safety without good housekeeping, you will never achieve true implementation of all Lean principles without 5S.
The 5S methodology is an organizational strategy consisting of five stages to maintain an orderly workspace with visual cues. Translated from Japanese, these stages represent “sort,” “stabilize” or “set in order,” “shine,” “standardize,” and “sustain.” Simply put, 5S really is a foundation for both workplace safety and the principles of Lean manufacturing.
So, where does safety fit into 5S? It’s integrated into each step of the process.
Sort—Remove What’s Not Needed
This stage encourages us to assess each workstation and remove all clutter and unwanted items so only the tools, equipment and machines that are required daily remain. This not only creates more efficiencies–it decreases the likelihood of an accident due to clutter. In the sorting process, you should observe any obvious safety issues and resolve them immediately. By resolving these issues in the beginning, you create a safer, less hazardous workspace for yourself and others.
Set in Order—Keep Everything in Its Place
You know the saying: There’s a place for everything, and everything in its place. Everything in your workstation needs to have a place. By setting your workspace in order, you create an orderly workflow. This proactive step can help reduce careless injuries and help to ensure that processes aren’t interrupted by needing to look in another person’s workstation for the proper tool.
Shine—Clean the Workspace
Workstations should be cleaned and organized daily: sweeping, clearing off papers, and making sure components are free of dust and spills that may create unnecessary wear and tear over time. Since at this stage you will already have set things in order, hazards like leaks or spills will stand out against an otherwise clean area. By maintaining the area, hazardous materials can be easily detected and removed in a timely manner.
Standardize—Maintain and Monitor
This step combines the first three, creating a standard for any workstation no matter the location. The interchangeable nature of these uniform procedures drives both operational efficiency and standards that maintain safety in every area. With a set of standard operating procedures (and the appropriate skillset), anyone who enters the work station should be able to perform the job safely and efficiently.
Sustain—Follow the Rules
Following the aforementioned guidelines in the 5S methodology will mean nothing if you don’t commit to sustaining them over time. It is crucial that the 5S methodology be reiterated through training for new and current employees. Additionally, the implementation of regular audits will ensure that the standards for 5S are being met on a consistent basis.
Obtaining regular feedback is necessary to maintain proper order. Make sure employees frequently ask themselves the following questions and report the findings to their supervisor:
* Is everything running as it should be? * Has a safety hazard been recognized but not corrected yet?
Often, employees believe that safety can, or should, be compromised to sustain productivity. It’s up to both the management team and the employees to demonstrate that safety can never be compromised for any reason. Safety must be a pre-condition of every activity. The attention to detail necessary to ensure workplace safety is also a factor with improving productivity, quality, customer care, employee relations, and ultimately profitability.
When an organization adopts the 5S methodology, the benefits are innumerable. Everyone with a connection to your organization — both internally and externally — will reap the advantages of increased safety and productivity.
About the Author:
Andy Stickler is the manager of safety & environment at Hytrol. In his role, he provides direction and leadership for Hytrol’s safety and environmental initiatives and teams. His approach to the subject emphasizes engaging employees and working with them to define a safe state within their work areas.