Henna Haikonen, Milla Sairanen, Xamk.
In continuum to WP 1 activities and results, a workshop was organized in October 2020 to discuss Lean thinking in construction site safety management. Experts in the workshop were Anssi Koskenvesa and Tarja Mäki from Mittaviiva Oy, which is a finnish consulting company with decades of experience in Lean Construction and safety management research. Participants consisted of students, lecturers and representatives of construction companies.
Lean is a philosophy that focuses on continuous improvements in a process. Value production and problem solving are at the core of Lean. Main goals in Lean is to produce at once properly and safely. By eliminating unnecessary work – including disruptions caused by accidents- optimal business efficiency is achieved.
Lean is applicable in construction industry as well. The value of the project or a task is defined from the customer’s point of view. Organizing work so that disruption interruptions do not occur provides a steady flow of value for both the customer and the company. In construction sites for example, a good way to use Lean is to make schedules more predictive and reliable.
Improvement of safety was examined from the perspective of managerial work and management. Strengthening the role of employees and developing the cooperation between planning and production was emphasized. The benefits of Lean philosophy when organizing construction site safety can be looked at from the point of view of occupational safety management. When employees stay healthy, the workflow keeps productive and efficient.
“What is the biggest challenge for safety management on construction sites?” asked Tarja Mäki. Accidents are most common when moving around the construction site and when returning to work after holidays. According to Mäki, this is most likely due to communication interruptions and the assumptions workers act upon. Another challenge is that safety issues mostly affect the employees on site and how this can be communicated to the top management that is removed from the actual work. The attitude “accidents just happen” still prevails for both top management and employees.
Disruptions in the flow of information, and an unorganized, untidy work site significant are risks for accidents at construction sites. Lean methods help systemically take into account risk anticipation, understanding the meaning of one’s own work and communication, task planning, safety plans, work content and instructions, process development and clean and standardized worksite etc. In practice these can include daily cleaning, keeping things in order, removal of clutter, and standardization of work.
Lean tools mentioned during the workshop to improve construction site safety were Value & Safety Stream Mapping, Last Planner, Potential Problems Analysis (PPA) and A3 problem solving. Also the 6S (Six Sigma) method is considered essential to safety, because it emphasizes the importance of removing root causes.
Towards the end of the workshop, the issue of competence development was discussed. Site induction, peer learning, and training of both workers and supervision are considered as parts of continuous improvement. Especially site induction is an essential part of good occupational safety culture even if it is often seen only as an obligation hindering productive work.
Overall participants were satisfied with the workshop and in the feedback survey 80% answered that they got some new ideas of the workshop and they felt that workshop increased their professional competence.