Lean worker safety

Five Ways to Apply Lean to Worker Safety

Construction remains one of the most dangerous U.S. industries, accounting for nearly 20% of all fatal workplace accidents in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Companies should always be looking to improve worker safety, and can apply lean methodology to improve value for both employees and customers.

Going lean in construction means identifying value for customers and optimizing processes to deliver that value in the most efficient way possible. But companies should also see employees as internal customers, whose health and safety must be valued just as much as profits. In applying lean design principles by reassessing operational “whys,” workers and clients win, writes Jim Parsons for the Engineering News-Record.

Simply adopting lean practices, such as eliminating wasteful movement, transport, or overproduction, can improve worker safety. When addressing inefficiencies early in a project design process, safety can be improved most effectively by reducing the time workers are exposed to hazards.

“Many companies are driven by front-end costs. When they start to consider the cost of an accident, this is really low-hanging fruit,” says Blake Wentz, a professor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Here are five tips from lean construction experts for improving worker safety:

  1. See employees as internal customers and value their health and safety.
  2. Focus on accidents as process-based, not behavior-based; find facts not fault.
  3. Address safety as a problem to solve, not a metric to improve.
  4. Embrace long-term task planning, so workers are less exposed to hazards.
  5. Give all employees opportunities to give feedback to continuously improve processes.

Applying lean to worker safety also requires a culture shift to a more collaborative environment, and companies are starting to realize this.

“It’s important to have an environment that fosters continuous improvement, worker input and collaboration,” says Andi Schoppa, a senior risk engineering consultant for Zurich North America. “Everyone works together on solving problems or preventing them.”

See the full article from the Engineering News-Record here.

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