In an extreme case, a footwear manufacturer in
In August 2006, a joint U.S.–Chinese research team [insert footnote] conducted an evaluation of the impact of the transition to lean manufacturing on occupational safety and health (
Perhaps the case only illustrates how easy it is to give lean manufacturing a bad name. While no one practicing “real lean” would tolerate such conditions, kaizen events can introduce safety hazards that participants don’t see.
[Advisors – can you give me any examples of changes that compromised safety, how that was recognized and what was done about it?]
Because a proper kaizen team is cross-functional, including a safety professional should be standard procedure. When safety professionals have been part of the kaizen, resistance to their advice is reduced because they are not issuing "safety rules" from management. As long as they fully participate, everyone on the kaizen team can see the benefits of looking at productivity, quality, and safety as aspects of improvement that go together. Safety professionals gain a better understanding of the value-creating business of the company. Managers can be more confident that safety risk is being reduced, not increased.
Some companies have unwisely eliminated staff safety positions, reassigning responsibilities to other overburdened managers and supervisors, or have curtailed opportunities for safety professionals to get training and to attend professional meetings and conferences. Managers need to recognize the importance of bringing safety knowledge into the firm.
Not enough safety experts at your company? It may be time to begin training a cadre of engineers, maintenance workers and production employees to supplement safety professionals in this role on kaizen teams. This is a good answer to the “problem” of what to do as workers are freed up by productivity improvements.
[Advisors: Any comments on “do no harm”?][Footnote: The team consisted of Dr. Dara O’Rourke of the
The foregoing is a draft of a short article I've written, but I'm not satisfied with it due to my shortage of first-hand experience in the field. I'm hoping that some of you smart visitors will add or comment. I will attribute all comments to their authors.