Monday, May 13, 2013

Safety Comes First

By Al Norval

As students of Lean, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the House of Lean from Toyota. It has Standards & Stability as its foundation; JIT and Jidoka as its pillars and Toyota’s True North as its roof. The True North consists of three elements:

  • Highest Quality
  • Lowest Cost
  • Shortest Leadtime

When I present this image I often get a question from the audience that goes something like this – What about Safety?

It’s a great question since in Lean we teach Safety Comes First. By Safety we don’t just mean personal safety and the prevention of accidents and harm to individuals, Safety Comes First goes deeper than that. It means providing an environment that is emotionally safe and intellectually safe as well. It means creating working conditions where people are free from harassment and bullying; where people are encouraged and able to contribute and become the best they can be. It means thinking about Safety as it applies throughout the entire Value Stream; product safety for Customers, material safety with Suppliers and extends to Contractors and Temporary and Casual workers as well. In fact Safety Comes First covers everything we do.

By taking this holistic view of Safety, we truly live the principle of “Respect for People” and in doing so can fully engage people to drive continuous improvement.

So why isn’t it part of the roof of the House of Lean?

It’s so basic to our thinking about Lean, that if we need to remind ourselves or others about it, we’re not at the level of thinking we need to be at as Leaders in a Lean environment.

I’ve been in many organizations that talk about Safety but when you go to Gemba you find out that Productivity truly comes first. Examples include people by-passing machine guarding to keep the product flowing, people taking short cuts to save minutes of downtime, people putting themselves in harm’s way just to meet the production targets. These organizations talk about Safety & Lean but don’t embody them.

When they finally understand that Lean is all about people, and to engage the hearts and minds of people we need to understand “Respect for People”, then they’ll understand why Safety Comes First.

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