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Lean Into Safety: Achieving Operational Safety Excellence

When it comes to improving workplace safety and culture, most people think of safety as a separate domain from operations and lean methodologies. Lean methodologies are often associated with cost-cutting and reductions in resources and people, which can be perceived as harmful to improving workplace safety. However, the reality is that lean methodologies are holistic and all-encompassing, and when integrated with workplace safety, it opens up a new conversation about operational excellence, which becomes operational safety excellence. To better understand the symbiotic relationship between lean thinking and workplace safety, it is essential to recognize how these domains work together, why mindset matters, and what changes can help achieve operational safety excellence.

Lean thinking and workplace safety share a common goal of achieving operational excellence. Lean thinking is about improving operations to increase efficiency, keep everyone safe, and make the end-user happy. One of the key principals in lean thinking is respect for people, including employees and customers.

Overcoming Roadblocks to Embracing Lean Despite the symbiotic relationship between lean thinking and workplace safety, there is resistance or confusion when lean is mentioned. One reason for this resistance is the long-held belief that lean means doing more with less; working with fewer resources and less staff. The reality is that lean focuses on efficiency and reducing waste and unnecessary work. A lack of data or ineffective use of data can also be a roadblock to implementing lean thinking. Lean thinking requires a focus on data-driven decision-making, and if an organization lacks the necessary data or is not effectively using the data it has, it can be difficult to make meaningful improvements. In addition, a lack of employee engagement can be a significant roadblock. Lean thinking requires the involvement of all employees, from frontline workers to upper management. If employees are not engaged in the process or do not feel empowered to make changes, it can be difficult to make progress. To embrace lean methodologies, there must be a change in mindset, which takes into account people’s behaviors and cultural backgrounds. This requires utilizing clear and comprehensive communication to address any misunderstandings.

Seeing ‘Waste’ in Safety Operations Lean principles focus on creating value by reducing waste in production and maintenance domains. The same non-value-added activities that are targeted in these domains are also seen widely in safety operations. For example, waiting time is a type of waste that has efficiency effects as people could be working instead of waiting. Waiting time also triggers more production risks as workers who wait too long for the next step to be fulfilled tend to cut corners on safety in order to catch up. By recognizing and addressing these inefficiencies, workplace safety can be improved, and lean methodologies can be integrated to achieve operational safety excellence.

Conclusion Integrating lean methodologies with workplace safety can improve operational excellence and create operational safety excellence. Overcoming roadblocks to embracing lean requires a change in mindset and clear communication. Finally, recognizing and addressing inefficiencies in safety operations can improve workplace safety and achieve operational safety excellence.

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