Friday, August 24, 2007

Driving Continuous Improvement in Plant Safety

The importance of employee participation in workplace safety ...

"Adopting a "30-inch view" of people and performance can lead to dramatic reductions in injury rates and significant gains in profitability, while creating a culture of respectful employee engagement.

The performance-punishing nature of poor workplace design is a persistent issue filled with musculoskeletal injuries and rising medical care costs. Many manufacturing and industrial companies attempt continuous improvement techniques to drive quality and reduce cost. A well-structured ergonomics initiative can be a powerful accelerator to both reduce costly musculoskeletal disorders and create rapid improvements in productivity.

Continuous improvement succeeds best on the notion that every employee is responsible for identifying and acting on opportunities for enhancing processes. It’s a powerful concept that can result in significant improvements in the short term and dramatic progress over time.
It’s also a powerful concept that can result in chaos. To be effective, your organization must move toward common goals at an agreed upon pace. One of the biggest barriers to achieving this simple synchronization is the verbiage used by different departments to identify their functions.

“We do safety,” says one. “Well, we do quality,” says another. “Yeah, well, we do order fulfillment,” says a third.

These old silos and job definitions will not let a company be agile enough to optimize the benefits of continuous improvement. In the ideal, everyone works on safety, everyone pursues quality and everyone assures order fulfillment.

The reality of continuous improvement is that a person’s job description is not a guarantee of future employment. Rather, the key is an employee’s ability to engage in daily improvement from multiple perspectives, accruing multiple benefits. Employees depend on ideas generated at the shop-floor level rather than pie-in-the-sky strategic business plans generated from 30,000 feet.

Gen. Colin Powell has a lifetime of experience in leadership in demanding situations. He always is clear that people closest to the frontlines should not be second guessed by people sitting in offices. “The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise,” Powell said.

He echoed many of the earlier thoughts of lean manufacturing guru Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System. “In our factories, we start our kaizen (continuous improvement) efforts by looking at the way our people do their work,” Ohno said.
Two leaders, worlds apart, recognized the essence of continuous improvement and achieving excellence: Sustainable gains cannot be achieved unless people on the front line/shop floor lead the improvement process."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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