5S programs have been implemented by many companies in order to improve work area organization through setting necessary items in order; shining up the work area so that cleanliness is promoted; standardizing organization through adopting work area guidelines or rules; and sustaining organization through the work area being audited on a regular basis to ensure that prescribed standards are adhered to. However, many people have suggested that a sixth “S” is needed for addressing safety specifically. Although drawing attention to safety within the workplace is always a good idea, CMM believe that it can be effectively incorporated into the current five points.
Whenever a 5S program is launched, a company should go through each of the points in a sequential manner. This is the proven path to create and maintain organization. The approach also helps to ensure that safety gets address as an organization is moving its efforts forward.
Here is how that can happen:
Sorting: There are two main goals: Identifying items that are no longer needed, and limiting the quantities of necessary things. When everything that is contained within an area is evaluated is also has the additional benefit of determining which equipment is actually being used and whether or not it is operating safely and properly. It is an opportunity to review potential risks for operators as well as other employees who work within the area. Frequently, equipment’s condition and its potential for being operated unsafely is a major determining factor in whether or not it remains in the area or is removed. When sorting is done effectively is reduces how much clutter an area has, which leads to reduced hazards and a work area that is safer all-around.
Setting in Order: The process involves finding the best places for necessary items to be stored. Safety plays an important role in choosing these areas. Decisions regarding storing heavy and large items, handling and storing tools as well as other types of sharp items, locations of certain areas that need to be kept clear (like aisles and areas that are in front of a utility panel) as well as the best locations for safety equipment (eyewash stations, safety showers, fire extinguished, and more) need to be made with employee safety in mind.
Shining: This has to factor into safety. Cleaning chemicals need to be properly stored, handled and disposed of. Mops and brooms need to be stored i a place that is easy to access but also secured when not being used. Just propping these items against doors, cabinets or wall is not safe and may cause injuries. When equipment or machines are in need of cleaning, there need to be safety protocols integrated into the cleaning process and all those who are involved need to clearly understand them. “Danger” and “warning” signs must always be adhered to. Shining offers yet another chance to check equipment and machines for unsafe conditions, like leaky valves and pipes, holes in hoses, and frayed wires.
Standardizing: This involves the process of creating guidelines or rules for supported the first three points and safe practices need to ground them. If color-coding is used, then it needs to be consistent across all areas. If yellow-and-black striped tape is used for marking a floor area, then everyone needs to understand what its purpose is for keeping the area clear. Also a floor area that is outlined in yellow tape or has a solid yellow block needs to have a meaning that is consistent. (I have seen these used for both areas that are to be remain clear but also for areas where items are to be stored.) Even simple guidelines like labeling practices must be clear, since misplaced items can impact safety in the future. For example, does a label on a shelf refer to items that are below or above it? Safety is at the foundation of things such as standards for storing flammables, disposal of sharps, and identifying pedestrian-only/motorized-vehicle areas.
Sustaining: When checking on whether or not agreed-upon standards are being followed, safety must be a focus. Any audit of a work area needs to not only address whether items are in the right quantity and right location, but also whether or not there are any unsafe practices that are happening. Machine safety features being disabled, the misapplication of PPE (personal protective equipment), motorized-vehicle operating violations, spills, trip hazards and other problems need to identified and also corrected when they are discovered. There needs to be a strict no-tolerance policy enforced whenever any safety issues are discovered during an audit. Unsafe work practices are condoned by anything less than that. They are encouraged by inaction.
Some people and organizations might prefer to have a sixth “S” for workplace organization or a separate safety component. However, I think there are greater benefits to having a 5S program where safety is incorporated into each step.