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How Lean Solutions Can Improve Plant Safety

Lean manufacturing is all about becoming more effective and efficient. Applied correctly, the lean system will improve all operational metrics on the way to achieving greater efficiency. Applied incorrectly or with too much emphasis on production, other metrics like safety could suffer. Many organizations work under the impression that safety rules, equipment, and procedures impede efficient production and get in the way of meeting output targets. This should not be the case however. Many lean solutions in fact improve efficiency, motion, and safety at the same time. Here’s how:

Eliminating Forklifts

Forklifts (a.k.a. fork trucks, tow motors, or hi-lo’s) are a major cause of workplace injuries and accidents. In fact, forklifts appear on OSHA’s top ten list of violations every year. This is in part because of how they are used. Though designed specifically for vertical lifting and loading of material, they are often used for lateral transportation of materials across long distances on the production floor. This practice is both dangerous in terms of employee safety and inefficient compared with the alternatives.

Going forklift free by replacing forklifts for material transportation with other lean methods (such as cart systems) can significantly reduce the risk of injuries, accidents, OSHA violations, and product damage related to the use of forklifts. Cart systems improve efficiency by allowing for transportation of any material, raw or finished, in any kind of packaging, while forklifts are limited to the transportation of pallets or other large containers.

Incorporate Ergonomic Workstations and Flow Racks

A major source of reported work-related injuries are from repetitive use and stress, from performing the same actions over and over. One way to reduce the number of these injuries is to optimize workspaces and inventory storage to be as ergonomic as possible for employees. The less bending, lifting, and reaching required, the less likely anyone will be injured.

Ergonomic workstations and flow racks have additional benefits for lean manufacturing as they support right-sized packaging, reduce motion, and create product flow.
There are many benefits of improving plant safety through these measures beyond just enhancing process effectiveness or reducing injuries. The reduction of accidents and injuries has very real implications for the bottom line as reducing injuries means reducing workers’ compensation claims and costs. Creating a participatory and positive work environment should be a goal in itself, and these initiatives provide visible ways to show how much that goal matters.

Contact us to learn more about how our lean solutions can improve plant safety as well as enhance efficiency.

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