Members often tell us that the most common safety risk they face is still slips, trips and falls. So how can this risk be reduced?
In the latest issue of Frontline Matters newsletter we set out some practical tips on how to spot and avoid hazards. Here, TXM Plant’s Sean Beales shares how it has adopted an innovative approach which has not only radically reduced the risk of this type of incident, but has seen a step change in efficiency, productivity and employee satisfaction.
What is the 6S approach?
6S is an innovative methodology for transforming the work environment. It’s about organising a workspace in a way which is safe and efficient. By stripping out waste and creating structure, it reduces safety risk and promotes greater productivity. Importantly it also leads to a more pleasant workplace for staff and helps make their job easier. As the name suggests, there are six stages to implementing 6S:
Why did TXM Plant decide to go down the 6S route?
TXM has a continuous improvement culture and was looking for ways to improve the reliability and service it provided its clients, while also making the work environment better and safer for its employees. We knew that the 6S methodology had been proven elsewhere and so we decided to adopt this good practice for the business.
What did you do?
We selected a depot to pilot the approach and emptied it over three to four days. Then, a thorough clear-out removed all non-essential items, eliminating waste and clutter. We involved depot staff from the start in decisions about what to keep and what should go. It wasn’t easy – it’s tempting to keep things ‘just in case’ - but by ruthlessly and consistently applying the principles of 6S, staff learned why it was necessary to ‘let go’.
The next stage involved two to three weeks’ cleaning, painting and reorganising the depot, so that everything had an assigned place and was clearly labelled. Again, depot staff played a key role in the decisions, being best placed to determine where things should go.
Once the depot was refurbished and everything reinstalled, we established a series of regular audits and controls and trained staff on how to sustain the new approach. Depot staff conduct the audits and are involved in decisions about corrective actions. In this way they ‘own’ responsibility for sustaining the 6S approach in their depot.
Following the success of the first pilot, we rolled the methodology out to six more depots - and there are two left to go. The next phase is to apply the 6S approach to engineers’ vans and finally to offices spaces.
TXM Plant’s depot before (left) and after (right) the implementation of the 6S methodology.
Has it worked?
In the depots which have been transformed, we have seen measurable improvements in efficiency and safety performance.
- Costs associated with stock control and retrieval have reduced, and jobs can be completed more quickly – which delights the clients. This has helped TXM make progress towards Network Rail’s ‘Route to Gold’ which measures supplier reliability:
Supplier reliability = successful shifts as % of total
MMA displays the six-month reliability up to the selected week (MMA = Moving Monthly Average).
- Workplace accidents and incidents have also dropped- reducing downtime and negative impact on staff.
6S has also triggered a culture change across the business. By bringing depot staff with us, we have seen them taking a greater pride in their working environment and reporting an increase in their job satisfaction. For depot visitors, it’s reassuring to see that we’ve invested in creating a safe and efficient workplace - they can be confident their safety while on site is paramount.
What were the challenges in implementing 6S and how did you overcome them?
As with most significant change, we met initial resistance, especially amongst engineers who traditionally hold on to things they ‘might need in future’. We worked with them to show how much space 6S would create - space which could be used for equipment they needed. Once they saw this, the engineers were better able to take difficult decisions about discarding items.
All staff were involved in the project from start to finish, and senior management showed their complete support in the process as well. We asked staff, from the onset, what they wanted out of 6S, and made sure this was taken into consideration. Every time a depot completed the process, we celebrated this across the business, and clients were invited to visit and recognise the results of the depot staff’s efforts. In fact, depots now compete with each other to see who can perform best.
If you were to give advice to a company thinking of adopting 6S, what would it be?
Before setting out, ensure that you have the resources in place to see it through. Without full commitment to the transformation, it’s unlikely to succeed. Each depot cost TXM between £35k and £45k but has returned more in terms of savings and safety improvement. It’s also important to ensure people have time to implement the process, and commitment goes beyond the initial refurbishment to ensure 6S’ long term sustainability.