What Is 5S and How Can it Make Construction Safer?

Use this good-housekeeping system to help prevent slips, trips and falls.

A system called 5S is a great way to help prevent trips, slips and falls in the yard, shop or jobsite. It’s method of workplace organization and housekeeping invented in Japan for the manufacturing sector and translated into five English words: sort, straighten (aka set in order), shine, standardize and sustain.

By sorting, (removing items not in use), straightening (for example, setting up work stations so tools are in easy reach and making it easy to locate and pick up materials) and shining (keeping the workplace clean), you’ll create a more orderly work site. Then when you standardize these procedures and sustain them over time with the help of worker training, schedules and audits, you’ll create a safer, more productive, more enjoyable environment for your employees.

Here are some good 5S habits to adopt:  

Keep cords and hoses secure. Cords and hoses stretched across walking paths are one of the top causes of slips and falls. If you can’t move them, make sure they are secured and clearly marked or highly visible.

Clean up spills. Don’t let spilled oil or any other liquid sit. Train workers to clean up spills immediately. If the floor is wet, mark the area with a cone or sign until it’s mopped.

Remove debris from exterior walkways. Materials and refuse should be stored where they belong, out of the way of workers.

Fix potholes and other walking surface hazards. Construction workers carrying materials don’t need hazards underfoot.

Paint curbs, bumpers and walkways with hi-vis paint. Hi-vis paint and floor tape are 5S mainstays.

Look for ways to increase visibility. Make sure your parking lot is well lit, and if you have employees working early in the morning or late at night, bring in enough lights to sufficiently illuminate the jobsite. Use bright tape or signs to create clear direction for your workers.  

It takes only a few seconds to create a mess or clutter that can lead to an injury. Practicing 5S requires time and attention to detail, but avoiding worker downtime — and increasing efficiency — is worth it.

 

 

Stacy Tornio is a writer and journalist in Wisconsin who covers everything from the outdoors and travel to education and technology.