Lean & Worker Safety

Lean & Worker Safety

When it comes to construction industry work, the goal is always to have injury-free projects. An injury on-site results in harm to your workers. It brings down worker morale and can be a financial loss. And, injuries are not uncommon on construction sites.


This leads us to wonder if there is a way to mitigate health and safety risks on construction sites. The principles of lean construction aim to decrease any factors of the work process that are considered to be wasteful and non-value adding. As such, one would assume that you can apply lean principles to increase worker safety and compliance on construction sites.


Below, we discuss the application of lean strategies to mitigate construction safety risks on construction sites as well as their advantages.


Applying Lean To Improve Worker Safety

There are many connections between lean practices and safety protocols on construction sites. For instance, there is a connection between the use of lean and the idea of Prevention through Design (PtD) - physically removing the hazard.


Here, using the lean concept of set-based design (SBD), teams come up with various design alternatives at the beginning of the project to create a better risk management process. This is a great way to tailor safety management solutions for each project or facility through lean thinking.


Further, making use of cross-functional teams, for example, ensures that there is a wider variety of design alternatives that all reduce waste and hazards. This is due to the fact that every team member will come up with different ideas because they have different perspectives.


Not only is everyone involved and able to share their opinions, but they also all have access to all the information available, and have a full understanding of everything going on. This ensures that there are little to no misunderstandings or miscommunications, which commonly result in mistakes that cause safety risks.


Of course, it’s important to note that it could be challenging to narrow down all the ideas to one perfect solution. But, the safety outcomes and construction risk management will be much better if planned for in this way.


You can also solve this challenge of narrowing down the designs to arrive at one optimal design using lean. More specifically, you can do this by using the lean decision-making system called the Choosing by Advantages system.


Furthermore, the generally increased efficiency of lean projects also ensures fewer mistakes. This means better construction risk management. Lean is all about communication, planning, transparency, and communication at all levels. As such, it allows for better safety and compliance of workers.


A Deeper Look

If we take a deeper look at lean, and the processes within it, we can see that it is truly geared towards a safer working environment.


Within lean, there is a process called the 5S methodology. This ensures that the worksite is tidy and sustainable. The five steps are as follows:

  • Sort - Remove things you don’t need from the site.

  • Set in Order- Identify and arrange what you do need, and organize them so they are easily accessible in the most optimal way.

  • Shine - Clean up all clutter.

  • Standardize - Create a schedule to regularly tidy up and sort out the workplace.

  • Sustain - Ensure that you make these steps a habit.

The Advantages Of Using Lean For Worker Safety In Construction

As you can imagine, there are various advantages for worker health and safety when applying lean construction principles. Here are some of the top advantages that lead to improved worker safety:


Forecasting

Applying lean to safety management on construction sites allows for the forecasting of any potential risks. This is because lean involves everyone in the planning stage. Because of this collaboration, all parties are able to bring their knowledge and experience to the table to predict what is to come after considering the specifications of the project to create the most efficient project specific safety management plan.


Process Mapping

With lean construction comes the idea of process mapping. Essentially, this involves laying out every single step of the project that needs to be completed in a visual way.


This results in a spread of ideas and information that anyone and everyone can access at every level or stage of the project. Here, it becomes easier to visualize any potential issues or problems.


As a result of this method, you can prevent hazards before they occur and mitigate risk before the construction work even begins.


Cleaning Up

Implementing lean construction means that the work environment, or rather the construction site, will be cleaner. Anyone who works in construction will be aware of how many injuries are caused by an unclean working environment - especially when it comes to chemical spills that have not been taken care of. These spills result in falls, intoxication, and a few other types of physical harm which compromise the health and safety of the employees.


There are methodological cleaning procedures involved in lean as well. Using lean, you consider these cleaning procedures during the planning phases at the beginning of the project. This means that there will never be a mess left unattended. In turn, this results in a lower likelihood of an accident taking place due to an uncleared mess.


Maneuvering Through The Construction Site

Everything is considered in the planning stages in lean construction. This means that all equipment, resources, and materials will be put in specific places to increase the efficiency of workflow.


As a result, there is less need for workers to travel through the construction site in search of materials. This minimizes potential exposure to construction site dangers including dangerous substances.


Reduction Of Overproduction

Once again, since there is more extensive planning in lean construction, it lessens overproduction. This not only reduces waste in terms of money and materials, but it also helps to mitigate health issues.


With overproduction comes longer working hours, which leads to tired workers and an increased risk of injuries and accidents. So, improving efficiency with lean planning ensures happier, healthier workers thereby minimizing risks onsite.


Closing Thoughts

Lean construction is perfect for ensuring worker safety and risk management. It comes with built-in processes that allow workers to be kept out of harm’s way and it does so in the most efficient way possible. It is ideal for anyone wanting to improve their risk management plan.


With all the advantages that come with using lean construction, the safety and compliance aspect may be the best one. Implementing lean has also never been easier with construction safety software apps like SkillSignal here to help.



References

  1. https://leanconstructionblog.com/Applying-Lean-Thinking-to-Improve-Safety-Performance-in-Construction.html

  2. https://leanconstructionblog.com/applying-choosing-by-advantages-step-by-step.html

  3. https://www.epa.gov/sustainability/lean-thinking-and-methods-5s

  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318279543_Intersection_between_Lean_Construction_and_Safety_Research_A_Review_of_the_Literature

  5. https://ohsonline.com/Articles/2019/03/01/Leaning-into-Construction-Safety.aspx?Page=1

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6351900/

  7. https://reverscore.com/lean-safety/

  8. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/programs/ptdesign/default.html



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