Integrating safety in Lean/Six Sigma

At the recent Safety In Action Conference in Melbourne, Sia Evans was scheduled to speak about integrating safety into Lean/Six Sigma.   The management processes were known to me but I had not associated them with OHS management so her blending of the two was intriguing.

I arranged an interview with Sia a couple of weeks prior to her presentation having met her briefly some time before.  As we were having coffee on a balcony in sunny Melbourne we discussed a broad range of issues including the cultural impacts that Sia’s approach had achieved for her employer, Computershare.

She also showed how occupational health and safety can be improved in a workplace by not talking about occupational health and safety.  Sia’s training programs instilled the importance of safety in employees without some of the baggage that OHS training feels obliged to include.

The interview has been edited into a podcast that can be accessed below.

Please let us know of any issues or thoughts the interview may have raised and I will ask Sia to respond.

Kevin Jones

3 thoughts on “Integrating safety in Lean/Six Sigma”

  1. Lean safety is an interesting concept. I particularly like the \”dont talk about safety\” idea as a way of masquerading \”safety as a stand alone\” set of actions

  2. Safety is, very simply put, a quality concern. A workplace safety incident is really a defect produced by a failure in the process. Process and layout designs should reduce the risk of safety incidents just as they should reduce the risk of defects. Lean and Six Sigma techniques can be used to assess and mitigate these risks.

    Lean and Six Sigma are used together to facilitate the improvement of a wide variety of processes. Examples include manufacturing and assembly, medical services, financial transactions, and environmental testing. Other disciplines such as project management are used in concert with Lean and Six Sigma to ensure the success of improvement efforts.

    Lean techniques identify and facilitate the redesign of the portions of a process that create waste. The first step is to map the process to understand how it works and then propose adjustments. In the safety arena, this translates into looking at the process flow and the physical layout, if applicable, to determine where hazardous conditions exist.

    Six Sigma encompasses a variety of tools that are used to reduce process errors and quality defects. Six Sigma can also be used to gather and analyze data on safety incidents and dangerous occurrences to evaluate possible causes and improvements. Six Sigma consists of a series of steps known as DMAIIC: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Implement, and Control. These steps address each phase of a process improvement effort, and all are required to evaluate potential sources of errors, defects, or hazards. From there, improvements are recommended, implemented, and evaluated. The tools used in Six Sigma include Statistical Process Control (SPC), design of experiments, and individual statistical analysis tools, to name a few.

    Using Lean and Six Sigma to assess hazards and safety incidents provides an opportunity to evaluate these issues in a broader context. Treating incidents as a type of defect or process failure category allows workers and managers to see the business impact of safety as well as the personal impact. This analytical, performance-based approach provides an excellent framework for the due diligence needed to make safety improvements and respond to a changing regulatory environment.

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