5S Method: Ensuring Workplace Health & Safety

How will a Japanese housekeeping practice boost productivity and ensure occupational health and safety in your organization?

The 5S method was developed by Hiroyuki Hirano to improve production systems through identifiable steps. It is popularly known to have revolutionized the production system of Japanese carmaker, Toyota.

The 5S is a valued member of the lean tool kit as it helps eliminate the “wastes” under the Lean Manufacturing system. It changed the way businesses operate by eliminating wastage and achieving a more organized and safer workspaces. It is based on the following concepts:

  • Seiri = Sort
  • Seiton = Set in Order
  • Seiso = Shine
  • Seiketsu = Standardize
  • Shitsuke = Sustain
two construction man holding white paper
Photo Courtesy of Anamul Rezwan via Pexels

Before we take a closer look on each step, let explore the benefits of the method to your organization:

  • 5S involves the removal of unnecessary items in the workspace, thus improving productivity with minimal waste of time.
  • The method promotes a clean working environment to reduce or totally eliminate work-related injuries. It helps ensure workplace safety.
  • With 5S, use proper labeling to identify the damaged items in designated areas that need to be replaced. This promotes better management of resources to reduce wastage.
  • The 5S method improves accountability in the workplace as it emphasizes worker participation. It allows workers to suggest ways on how to make productive changes in the business operations.
  • The 5S is key in complying with health & safety standards. The Occupational Health and Safety Management System or ISO 45001:2018 is an internationally recognized standard that helps organizations set up processes and initiatives that minimize safety risks in the workspace. This standard is implemented in various industries especially in healthcare, warehousing and manufacturing.

How to implement 5S in the workplace?

person using forklift
Photo Courtesy of ELEVATE via Pexels

Seiri = Sort

The Seiri (Sort) stage involves the elimination of all unnecessary items in the workplace. The decluttering helps you keep stock of tools, supplies, and equipment in the workplace and get rid of those that need to be discarded.

Implementation: Place a red tag on each item you deem not necessary for completing a task. Gather all the red-tagged items in a separate area for evaluation. The items that are seldom used should be stored near the workspace while those that are no longer needed should be disposed of.

Benefits: Sorting can help your workers easily locate resources and reduce distracting clutter.

Seiton = Set in Order

The Seiton (Set in Order) stage involves the organization of items in easily accessible and safe locations in the workspace. This requires an assessment of storage spaces and methods for efficient visual management. Items shall be kept in optimal location.

Implementation: Use labels and color coding to identify how often an item is used and where to keep it. Such item shall remain in a predetermined location until it is used and shall be returned immediately after its use.

Benefits: Setting in order frees up and maximizes space, and prevents accidents by removing unnecessary obstacles. Harmful chemicals shall be kept in safe storage spaces that protect workers from the effects of an accidental spillage or chemical reaction.

Seiso = Shine

The Seiso (Shine) stage comes after you have decluttered the workspace and stored items in their proper locations. Seiso involves the thorough cleaning of tools, equipment, workspaces and facilities every day. This is critical in sustaining the improvements gained in the Seiri and Seiton stages.

Implementation: Create a checklist of the items or equipment and work areas that need to be cleaned, including the most efficient way of cleaning them. Make this task everyone’s responsibility. Each worker is expected to keep his/her workspace clean and tidy at all times.

Benefits: Workers feel more comfortable and are able to concentrate on the task at hand when their area is clean. A waste-free workspace also prevents accidents from poorly-maintained tools and equipment, and untidy walking surfaces.

Seiketsu = Standardize

The Seiketsu (Standardize) stage standardizes the practices you implemented in the Seiri, Seiton and Seiso stages. This helps you consistently gain the benefits of the first three stages of the 5S method. The practices will become the new norm for the organization, replacing the inefficient old habits.

Implementation: Set meetings in each division or department in the organization to document the new practices. This requires the involvement of workers and their managers. Codify the new standards and disseminate these via message boards, emails, etc.

Benefits: By standardizing new practices, you maximize their benefits across the enterprise. Workers will turn them into habits. It will boost overall productivity and reduce, and eventually eliminate, the possibility of workspace accidents.

Shitsuke = Sustain

The last stage, Shitsuke (Sustain) involves commitment by all members of the organization in maintaining the improvements made in the Seiri, Seiton and Seiso stages. This requires you to develop a formal system that includes the training of workers and dissemination of information about new practices on health and safety.

Implementation: Sustain the benefits of Seiri, Seiton and Seiso by conducting regular audits. Document the findings and discuss with workers and managers ways on how to address issues and challenges. Send communications about updates on workplace standards.

Benefits: Instilling self-discipline on workers will help guarantee that the positive changes from sorting, setting in order and “shining” the workplace. It helps remove obstacles to productivity and guarantees that everyone in the organization is safe and secure at all times.

A strict implementation of the 5S method is a necessity in every organization regardless of industry. Better organize your workplace, boost productivity and ensure the safety of every member of your enterprise. Remember to:

  1. Sort all items, supplies and equipment in your workplace;
  2. Set them in accessible and safe locations;
  3. Keep them, and work areas, clean and shining;
  4. Standardize these new practices; and
  5. Sustain the gains.

Need help implementing the 5S method and complying with occupational health and safety standards? Reach out to ECCI compliance specialists today!