Workplace Safety at the Forefront of 6S Lean System

By Kevin Ritchart

No matter the industry, a primary goal of any organization is often to maximize efficiency and reduce waste. While there are plenty of business models that will help you achieve those goals, some fail to properly address the issue of workplace safety.

6S Lean is a management system designed to promote and foster high levels of productivity and safety throughout the workplace. With its origins in the Japanese 5S system, 6S Lean takes the concept even further by establishing a sustainable culture of safe workplace practices.

While they have primarily been used in manufacturing, the 5S and 6S systems also have shown to be effective in healthcare facilities and office environments to increase efficiency and reduce waste.

A Closer Look at 6S Lean

The 6S Lean management system is made up of six steps. Employees are expected to learn and perform the tasks in each of the steps to ensure they’re maintaining a safe, efficient work environment.

Sort: This step is also known as red tagging, a process where items not vital for work are removed from the area.

Set in order: A logical next move after sort, setting in order involves the organization of tools and materials. They’re grouped by function and labeled, then placed in convenient areas so workers can easily access them when needed.

Shine: Mastering this step includes routine cleaning of the workspace to maintain an organized, clutter-free appearance and employing ongoing measures to keep areas clean.

Safety: This additional step from the traditional 5S system focuses on the identification of workplace hazards and putting in place preventive controls to keep workers safe during their shifts.

Standardize: The establishment of new workplace norms includes providing visual reminders, setting clear expectations of workers’ responsibilities, and conducting regular site checks and inspections.

Sustain: This is the most challenging step in the process, where standardized procedures must be applied continuously until following them becomes a habit.

Lean: This refers to the goal of maintaining a zero-waste environment.

A safe working environment has a positive effect on both quality and productivity.

Emphasis on Safety

Safety should be a top priority in any workplace. A safe working environment has a positive effect on both quality and productivity.

Creating a healthy, stress-free workplace using the principles of 6S Lean will allow employees to feel safe and secure while performing their daily tasks. And maintaining a clean, organized workplace makes it easy to identify and address potential hazards.

Employees must be aware of the potential hazards in their workplace and be able to evaluate them using standardized methods of risk assessment. These prerequisite methods will help employees perform the necessary safety procedures to reduce or eliminate hazards.

PPE for You and Me

Workers should don the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times to limit their exposure to hazards that are either difficult to control or cannot be eliminated. PPE may include hard hats, goggles, facemasks, gloves, slip-resistant footwear, and more.

Guidance on required PPE and proper donning and doffing procedures should be made available through ongoing training efforts, and regular checks should be done to ensure PPE requirements are followed.

Implementing the 6S Lean methodology won’t guarantee that workers will be safe 100 percent of the time. But adhering to these principles can help create and maintain a focused workforce and a clean, safe environment.


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