August 20, 2019

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

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.’

zx-spectrumBut 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.

SHP legislation update eBook

SHP’s latest legislation eBook covers recognition of mental health issues in the workplace, the reclassification of mild welding fume as a human carcinogen, new manslaughter definitive guidelines, PPE, Brexit, drone safety regulations and much more…

  • Recognition of Mental Health Issues in the Workplace
  • Reclassification of Mild Welding Fume as a Human Carcinogen
  • Sentencing Council Published New Manslaughter Definitive Guidelines
  • Larger firms face biggest fine increases: Sentencing Council impact assessment shows
  • Bouncy Castles and Other Play Inflatables: Safety Advice
  • Revision of Standards for Powered Doors, Gates and Barriers
  • PPE
  • Modern Slavery Act Review
  • Drone Safety Regulations
  • Health and Safety (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018
  • Ionising Radiation
  • Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Diving) Regulations 2018 (Ireland)
  • Environment and Energy
  • and much more…

Related Topics

3 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
Keith from LeicestershireNigel Evelyn-Dupree Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree

Mmmm, revolutionary concept that, “does it work or doesn’t it?” not something rocket science or counter intuitive one might think but, whether subjective or objective NOT something that has been applied to any mitigative interventions prior to or post the HSE Better Display Screen RR 561 medical review 2007, even though presenteeism has, by and large, been replacing absenteeism as a work-stress fight or flight coping strategy for escaping the workplace stressors for a day or two. Perhaps, with the shift from just safety to health and threat of DSE “Accessibility” being further enshrined in law, in addition to the… Read more »

Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree

There again, presenteeism, performance, productivity, wellbeing, sleep deprivation, error rates, mishaps and, potential accidents nothing to do with workplace stress-fatigue, other than, in the air or military, what, what ?

Keith from Leicestershire
Keith from Leicestershire

Sound enough principle although I can hear some coughing and spluttering from the ‘systems’ brigade who might already have created/written the first two or three pages of a procedure, process or work instruction before actually writing one word of safety guidance (yes there is a place for everything). I would like to have seen Keith present ‘before’ and ‘after’ or ‘traditional’ and ‘lean’ documents to fully illustrate his point.

Are you aware of the Barbour EHS brand?