Enhancing Workplace Safety with the 5S Methodology

Posted by Chris Clark | May 24, 2016 1 Comment

Contributor: Chris Clark, Brady Corporation

Chris Clark has 25 years of operational management experience at Brady Corporation focused in production, engineering, logistics, service and repair, ERP/SAP implementation, acquisition integration and, most recently, supply chain. Clark has led lean-site transformations, managed plants and facilitated production moves, and has been instrumental in Brady’s Lean and Continuous Improvement Journey. In addition, he is certified in Six Sigma (BB), Lean and Team Development.


The 5S methodology is a workplace organization strategy consisting of five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu, and shitsuke, meaning sort, set in order, shine, iStock_000023861048_Medium.jpgstandardize and sustain. Not only do these pillars support a lean supply chain and visual workplace, but they can also be extended to reinforce workplace safety.

1) What are some key metrics used to gauge the success of 5S methodology implementation?

Effectively implementing 5S can lead to waste reduction, enhanced employee knowledge and improved productivity. Primarily, 5S is a foundation for the success of quantifiable business objectives, such as:

  • Improvements in floor space utilization, employee safety and morale, product quality, and equipment reliability, productivity and set-up times or consistency.
  • Reductions in non-value-added activities, mistakes made by employees or suppliers, employee training time, time searching for tools/supplies/parts, and unnecessary transportation of goods.

In early 5S learning, it's common to implement an audit to measure the number of 5S violations or percentage of audit compliance. In my experience, 5S audits often fail to be sustainable when leadership doesn’t review the audits and hold accountability to the failures, or when the 5S was done ineffectively and items were targeted to be stored too far away from the point of use.    

When 5S is done effectively, the sustainability of it almost becomes self-sustaining because it “makes sense” for the stakeholders.

2) Are there any existing case studies that we can reference?   

For additional information and case study examples on 5S plus safety, please refer to my Knowledge is Power presentation.

3) 5S seems to be an overall workplace efficiency methodology. Are there any aspects that pertain exclusively to workplace safety? 5S+1?

5S is one of the most widely used techniques from the lean manufacturing toolbox aimed at creating a clean, orderly, and safe environment – where there is “a place for everything and everything is in its place.” When incorporating safety into your 5S process, workplace safety should be thought about as criteria in each step of the 5S process. It’s not a separate step or an afterthought; it’s an integral part of the entire 5S process.

4) Aside from the manufacturing floor, how can the office also benefit from 5S

Just like the manufacturing floor, office layouts have their own safety hazards. It's common for file cabinets to block electrical panels, or for there to be blind corners causing walkway collisions. Slips, trips, and falls are just as common in offices as they are on the shop floor.

In addition, I’ve seen IT departments take a 5S approach to file maintenance and server support. The purpose of 5S is to quickly and efficiently find what you need, removing wasteful distractions, ultimately delivering results more effectively. So yes, 5S can and has been beneficial in office settings.  

At one office, I witnessed a single glass coffee table in the lobby that was parallel to a walkway. It was common for visitors to bump into it, and those bumps are near falls. Due to the placement of the coffee table, an employee did end up falling, leading to a lost time accident. Shortly after, the table was removed permanently.

In the office or on the manufacturing floor, the same rule applies: a combination of an unsafe condition and an unsafe behavior will cause an accident. That table was a condition that was avoided by many, but one inattentive person around the unsafe setup of the table is all it took for an accident to occur.

5S intends to visualize conditions — the more you consider that unsafe behaviors can happen, the better you are able to apply 5S with an eye for the worst-case scenarios, instead of hoping that these accidents won’t occur.

Assembly Fasteners, Inc. and our trusted partner Brady Corporation view workplace safety as integral part of a business’ overall organization. By following the lead of the 5S methodology and taking simple safety precautions, you can prevent accidents and leave a long-lasting impact on the culture of your office or shop. 

For more information and tips about methods to ensure workplace safety, visit our Safety Products page or download our new eBook “Making the Workplace Safe: Safety Guide.”

 Download Our Workplace Safety Guide