The Synergy between Lean and Health and Safety Programs

Where do Lean and EH&S meet? The principles and tenets of Lean are closely aligned with the tenets of H&S. The challenge is that the linking is not often thought of or linked in such a way that the two functions are complementary in implementation. There are articles and books written linking Lean and a comprehensive and effective H&S program. Although limited, these bodies of literature are a demonstration that some leaders are beginning to recognize the link and the benefits of implementing the two programs in concert. Two examples of such literature are listed in Vignette 8.1.

Lean Principles and EH&S Program Integration


Principles of Lean


Determine the customer value

A well-designed EH&S program can and does add value to a corporate business strategy. Managers desire a program that is cost effective and provide the appropriate level of support to ensure protection of the workforce and the environment. Some customers may need assistance in defining the value and identifying what regulations are not applicable to their business if any.

Identify the value stream and then map

When a new process or technology is introduced and mapped to determine activities involved in creating and implementing the process or technology, it is a good business practice to consider and include in the map of all the associated EH&S requirements. Inclusion of EH&S requirement can save time and money down the line. For example, if a permit is needed it may take weeks, months to years to get it through the regulatory process.

Eliminate waste and create flow

An EH&S program can introduce waste through program development and implementation. When developing an EH&S program, ensure that the applicable regulations are accounted for and that the program is developed with the needs of the organization in mind. Avoid copying another organization program that has different business objectives. When implementing the program, ensure that the appropriate staffing is in place with the level of knowledge to aid implementation as not all regulations are clear, and some interpretation may be warranted.

Respond to pull by customer

Understand the applicable regulatory requirement and develop a process to facilitate compliance and avoid noncompliances that can result in penalties and fines.

Pursue perfection to achieve continuous improvement

Continue to review and evaluate the EH&S program and performance, and make adjustments as needed. It is important to keep abreast of regulatory changes as it will impact program performance and effectiveness.


One resource that discuss the application of Lean in developing and implementing a safety program using Lean concepts is listed as follows:

Lean Safety, Transforming your Safety Culture with Lean Management, Robert B. Hafey, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2010, discusses the link between Lean and safety, and success of Lean is highly dependent of safety.

When reviewing the aforementioned books and other references that show a definitive link to the synergy and benefits of taking a Lean approach to H&S, you will frequently hear the term Lean safety. Lean safety is simply defined as a systematic approach used for the express purpose of identifying and controlling the waste in processes and activities, which could cause or contribute to workplace accidents or illnesses.

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