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A Lean Safety Approach

- September 10, 2019 by Terio Duran (View all posts by Terio)

Last week I took my car in to get an oil change. As I waited and waited, I noticed something interesting. The first thing that caught my eye were two hoses left lying on the service bay floor.  A shop-vac hose and an airline hose lying there screaming, pick me up! In my mind, it was just a matter of time before the hose decided to bite back and trip someone.

As I stood there observing, a couple of other things caught my attention. First, employees had become oblivious to the hoses being there. Life went on as if the hoses did not exist.  Second, supervisors ignored the hoses on the floor too! Third, the number of times employees had to step over the hoses!

In the hour or so that I was there, I observed four employees step over each hose time and time again! I counted about 20 times for each employee. I estimated that it took about an extra second each time the employee lifted his foot and completed the step over the hose. That came out to about 20 seconds at four employees for a total of 80 seconds within an hour. So I took this information and made the following calculations. (Yes can you tell I was bored?)

Hourly Wasted time Daily Wasted Time 1 Week Wasted Time 1 Year Wasted Time 10 Years of Wasted Time
80 seconds 15 minutes 90 minutes 78 hours 780 hours
Hourly Wasted Profit Daily Wasted Profit 1 Week Wasted Profit 1 Year Wasted Profit 10 Years of Wasted Profit
.37 cents $3.75 $22.50 $1,170 $11,700

Not only did the hoses on the floor increase the risk of trips and falls and all of the costs associated with direct and indirect costs of workers’ compensation claims. They also resulted in a loss of profit every time an employee had to take time to step over the hose. In a 10-year span, this company would lose approximately 780 hours of wasted time, at a profit loss of $11,700 out the window!

Blaming employees for leaving the hoses on the floors is the natural and easy response to trying to fix this situation. However, would it really fix the root of the problem?   Or, would employees simply revert to leaving items on the floor once time passes by?  No problem you say, if my employees keep leaving stuff on the floor, I’ll just have my supervisors write them up or fire them. However, do you really want to take it to this extreme? Especially with the difficulty of finding good employees these days.

So, I challenge you. What would you do? Other than verbal counseling, discipline, or training, what other effective solutions could you implement to improve this situation?  What could be done to make it less likely that employees will leave objects on the floor? How could you combine lean principles and safety in your operation to not only reduce the risk of accidents but also to limit defects, reduce lead-time, and increase profits? Let me know your thoughts, drop me an email when you have a chance.