Culture And Behaviours
Lean safety: Factual information, simply explained
Keith Hole, better known as the Safety Man, gave an entertaining talk in Safety & Health Expo 2019’s Operational Excellence Theatre about his concept of ‘lean safety.’
But he didn’t begin with safety – he began with the ZX Spectrum, a classic computer first released in 1982, and a far cry from the powerful machines we use today. The Spectrum contained only 48kb of memory, not even enough space to hold a single Harry Potter book.
He noted, however, that simply replacing the name ‘Harry’ with an asterisk would save an additional 8kb of space – and this is exactly how the Spectrum used the limited space available to it.
It’s a neat explanation of how the ZX Spectrum could do a lot with a little, which is where the concept of lean safety comes in.
Lean safety refers to the practice of simplifying and shortening safety documentation to make sure it’s easily read and understood by the people who actually need to use it.
He used the real-life example of a 14-page plumbing method statement, which contained so much inessential information as to be effectively useless for an actual plumber on the job. Plumbers, he said, already know what they’re doing – they don’t really need a 14-page document to tell them to connect the toilet to the mains.
The same principle can be applied to health and safety documentation. Most workers only need very specific information, so a document written entirely in ‘legalese’ will be totally impenetrable to them.
Keith’s advice, then, is simple: workers need factual information simply explained, as opposed to a complicated legal document.
Instructional documents should be easy to read and only contain the facts most relevant to their audience. The aim should be to get the right information to the right people to the right time.
By making life easier for workers, they will become more engaged, absences will be reduced, incidents avoided and the quality of reporting improved. All this, simply by bucking the trend of complicated, difficult-to-understand documentation and embracing lean safety.
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