Efficiency and waste reduction are twin objectives of a Lean workplace culture, but improved safety and minimized risk can be convenient side effects of a Lean approach. Hazards create disruptions, obstacles, and barriers to productivity, but a focus on improved safety can increase satisfaction and value for employees and managers. Once you understand the basics of a Lean method, you can expand those principles to reduce hazards and improve safety throughout the workplace.

Integrate Lean Principles With Safety Objectives

The Lean method incorporates five key principles that aim to increase efficiency and decrease waste in the workplace, with the ultimate goal of improving product quality. A Lean workplace culture requires the work of everyone—leadership and manufacturing floor team—to be effective. The safety benefits are well worth the effort. 

Begin with a quick overview of the five Lean principles, which are:

  1. Identify Value
  2. Map the Value Stream
  3. Create Workflows
  4. Establish a Pull System
  5. Seek Perfection

Combine the above principles with well-defined safety objectives to create a workplace environment with reduced hazards, minimized waste, and optimized efficiency.

Align Safety Goals With Organizational Objectives to Determine Value

The worth of safety often remains hidden behind profit margins and productivity goals. However, safety is in many cases directly related to these overarching organizational objectives: Minimizing hazards to employees can increase their productivity and output, ultimately creating appealing outcomes for managers and stakeholders. Emphasize safety objectives in concert with big-picture goals to illustrate the value they add to an organization’s success.

Map the Value Stream to Identify Safety Bottlenecks

When you map the value stream and identify places where waste exists—either physically or in terms of time or labor—you’ll naturally spot areas where hazards are present. Any time an employee must stop their work to remove an obstacle or address an accident, productivity is disrupted. Bottlenecks may also highlight places where safety is not prioritized and risk-averse workers take extra steps to avoid unmitigated hazards, reducing the efficiency of the entire workflow.

Create Flow and Improve Standard Operating Procedures

Just like a well-oiled machine is less likely to malfunction, a Lean workflow minimizes the potential for workplace hazards. Improved flow and established processes minimize the opportunity for errors, so there’s less chance that hazards could be introduced into the workplace. Use floor tape or signs with clear text and easy-to-understand graphics to create visual reminders of each step in a given process, keeping employees on task and out of harm’s way.

Seek Perfection Through Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is a core component of a Lean workplace culture. Lean workplaces require ongoing assessment and improvement of processes to introduce efficiencies and reduce waste. Regularly scheduled safety audits should take a standardized, thorough approach to identifying and addressing hazards. Similarly, encourage employees to identify potential hazards and propose solutions that work within established workflows or improved processes.

Take advantage of ongoing monitoring to identify and rectify potential hazards. For example, you may notice that tools and equipment are not being returned to their proper storage space. Because misplaced tools can create obstacles for workers and can introduce trip or fall hazards or other risks within day-to-day operations, you may choose to adjust storage processes, install visual cues to remind employees of requirements, or both.

Streamline Processes for Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment

Continuous improvement involves more than just physical observation: Lean principles can also help you improve the processes you use to identify hazards and assess risk.

  • Standardize protocols for risk assessment and the identification of potential hazards, and train employees on the proper protocols for both.
  • Develop a comprehensive reporting system so it is easy for employees to escalate potential hazards to the person who can properly address them.
  • Prioritize clarity and simplicity when setting forth processes for hazard and risk identification. Steps should be easy to understand and easy to follow to avoid wasted time.

Using Floor Markings to Support Lean Safety Objectives

Visual communication is a key component of a Lean approach. Durable floor marking products support a Lean workplace culture and can reinforce safety objectives by providing messaging that reduces workplace hazards.

Use floor tape, custom floor signs, or pre-cut markers to:

  • Outline defined storage and organization areas. When everything has its place, it’s easier to find and store items—and you reduce obstacles in an employee’s path. Use color-coded tape to delineate storage spaces set aside for tools, materials, and equipment, reducing the risk of clutter-related accidents. 
  • Optimize workflow and process efficiency. Use floor tape to direct the flow of materials or the sequence of steps in a process. When employees can quickly and easily understand an established workflow, they are less likely to make mistakes that could create a hazard. Arrows, dashes, lines, and signs provide context, reducing confusion and mitigating risk for workers in a busy, fast-paced environment.
  • Mark hazardous areas. Use colored floor tape and “Caution” or “Danger” signs to clearly demarcate hazardous or restricted areas or places where trips and falls are more likely to occur. Yellow and orange meet the accepted color standards for caution messaging, but consistency is key: Choose a bright, unique color to ensure hazardous area warnings are not overlooked.

Take Lean culture one step further and use the guiding principles to minimize hazards and improve the safety of your workplace. For more on industrial safety and how floor marking products can help you achieve those objectives, explore our Resource Center.