The goal of lean manufacturing is to maximize efficiency and profit through eliminating excess and waste.  By standardizing every job position, establishing clear workflow, and economizing the effort needed to complete each task, lean manufacturing, and other kaizen-based workflow philosophies, allow businesses to constantly improve and streamline their manufacturing methods.  However, repetition of specific tasks does not only lead to improved speed and efficiency, it also leads to safer working environments.  By clearly establishing workflow and eliminating extraneous movement, there is little room left for workplace accidents to occur. 

A great way to organize a workplace is through implementation of a 5s system.  Each “s” in a 5s system stands for a different step in the process.  They are: Sort, Set In Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.

Sort: In the first step it is important to get rid of all unnecessary tools and equipment that can be found in the workplace area.  Everything that is necessary to production will be stored.

Set In Order:  Each piece of equipment and tool should be organized in a manner that fosters maximum workplace efficiency.  Tools should be stored as close to where they will be used as possible.  If a tool is only needed at the end of the machine, then that is where it should be.  If a tool is needed at three different locations throughout the workplace, then there should be quick access to that tool at all three of those locations.

Shine:  Once everything is organized it is important to establish a thorough and efficient method for cleaning and maintaining tools and equipment.  Maintaining equipment is crucial to workplace safety, and also saves money in that machines will break down less frequently and perform more efficiently.  By establishing a pattern of daily cleanliness and inspection, problems are found before they become serious or endanger employees.

Standardize: The first three steps have been implemented by many businesses when they first open or begin production, but often slowly disappear from practice.  By standardizing, clear and efficient ways are set up and documented for doing each task.  Also specific maintenance should be outlined with detailed instructions or checklists and specific outlining of who should be completing each task and when.

Sustain:  There is no point in taking the time to implement a system, if it is not sustained.  Deviation from any of the steps, even if just once, should be deemed unacceptable.  However, it is important not to punish for such deviations.  It is recommended that regular audits are done to make sure that the system is being implemented on every level, but if the audit system is punitive, employees are more motivated to hide mistakes than be honest about them.  Without this honesty it is impossible for a 5s system to be truly effective as constant evaluation and improvement are crucial.

By implementing a system with clear goals, properly maintaining machinery, and establishing where an employee should be at all times, workplace safety becomes immensely easier.  Without machinery malfunctions or incidents caused by misplaced items, the only workplace accidents left are those that are truly unavoidable.