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Organize Your Workplace for Safety

Hard hat and construction conesMaking proper safety decisions is a lot like brushing your teeth — it’s a short-term nuisance, but important in the long term. The key to keeping your workspace or warehouse clean and safe is to establish a culture of organization and safety. The 5S system (lean principles for your workspace) offers a good framework to keep things orderly. Below are the five steps of 5S and tips to help you successfully implement it across your teams.

1. Sort — everything place for everything and everything in its place. Ensure that if any equipment is broken or misplaced, the problem is quickly identified and resolved. Otherwise, messy becomes the status quo and people adapt to the clutter.

How to implement: Explain to employees that keeping the workspace clutter-free will maintain a safer, more efficient, and pleasant work environment for everyone. Remove all unnecessary items from the work area. Make it easy for workers to identify issues on the go — for example, by carrying red tags that they can quickly attach to a misplaced or broken piece of equipment.

2. Set in Order — Create efficient storage methods that organize work materials and provide easy access to everything a worker could need. Add clear labeling to show where items go.

How to implement: Identify organized and enthusiastic staff willing to review areas of the site and make recommendations for how to better label and store items. Install shelving, safety cabinets, safety cans and containers, hazardous waste containers, and other storage equipment where appropriate. Help employees take pride in the achievement and celebrate the improvement.

3. Shine — Keeping your facility areas clean makes it easier to notice equipment problems, such as leaks or spills, so that workers can respond more quickly to issues. As part of your “shine” routine, also freshen up paint on walls, pipes, and other structures and conduct regular inspections. Cleanliness can also improve employees’ health and safety — for example, you can place outdoor cigarette receptacles in designated smoking areas to prevent litter (cigarette butts contain toxic chemicals) and accidental fires.

How to implement: Make cleaning part of your work culture by clearly communicating how often cleaning, painting, and inspections should be done and whose responsibility they are. Create simple checklists for cleaning jobs. Offer incentives for the cleanest sections or disciplinary action for consistent disregard of cleanliness policies.

4. Standardize — To maintain the first three steps, you must establish clear standards and expectations for work tasks and cleaning, inspection, and safety procedures that all employees understand. Provide instructions for how things will be done, and why.

How to implement: Create signs, checklists, and job cycle charts to keep the standards top of mind. Celebrate exemplary performance. Continue to reinforce your company as one that takes pride in an orderly environment.

5. Sustain — Sustain means making a habit of the previous four steps. Changing culture takes time and requires genuine buy-in from employees across the company, not just management.

How to implement: Good signage is a start, but to truly integrate 5S policies into your work culture, employees need to see the value in the principles. During the first few months, frequently remind employees of the policies and give rewards for compliance. Respond to instances of non-compliance with the appropriate consequences. Finally, audit your 5S strategies regularly, so you can identify what is and isn’t working and continuously improve the program.

To ensure that your 5S strategy works as well as possible, both management and staff need to buy in to the plan. With everyone’s commitment, applying 5S principles can lead to a more efficient, orderly, and safe workplace.

[cta]Angie MezaDo you have the right safety products on hand to support your 5S efforts? To find out, contact Angie Meza at angie@absorbentsonline.com or (800) 869-9633.[/cta]