5S Workplaces – When Lean and Safety Meet

5S, which refers to the five Japanese words for clearing up, arrangement, neatness, discipline, and ongoing improvement, is a workplace organization system that also supports safety; the sixth S. It achieved proven results at the Ford Motor Company during the first quarter of the 20th century, where Henry Ford paid his cleaners the same high wage he paid his machine tool and assembly workers. This presentation will cover the application of 5S along with safety, including activities that promote workforce participation in safety; a central aspect of the ISO 45001:2018 occupational health and safety standard.

Areas Covered in the Session :

  1. Most elements of 5S originated at the Ford Motor Company, where Henry Ford acknowledged its role in quality and productivity by paying cleaners as much as he paid production workers. A clean floor was a visual control that made abnormalities such as leaking oil, leaking hydraulic fluid, or dropped parts immediately obvious while convenient waste containers—a practice later adopted by Disney theme parks—kept the workplace free of litter. Cleanliness was among Ford’s three principles of management, and it delivered proven bottom line results. The lockout-tagout safety practice also was used by Ford 90 or more years ago.
  2. 5S means:
    • Seiri (cleaning up) removes all unnecessary items from the shop floor
    • Seiton (arranging): a place for everything, and everything in its place. This eliminates the need to search for parts and tools, and shadow boards have been used for more than 100 years. Workplace arrangement also removes waste motion, one of the Toyota production system’s Seven Wastes.
    • Seiso (neatness) focuses on a clean workplace in which abnormalities have no place to hide.
    • Shitsuke (discipline) makes the first three Ss routine, and adds preventive maintenance.
    • Seiketsu (ongoing improvement) means looking for more opportunities to apply 5S.
  3. Safety:
    • Henry Ford’s twelve key accident root causes are as applicable today as they were almost 100 years ago. Ford’s “Can’t rather than don’t” (engineering controls, error-proofing) safety principle takes five of them off the table immediately. The effectiveness of “can’t rather than don’t” has been proven on numerous occasions, with safety incident rates being reduced to the nice round number of zero.
    • 5S eliminates two more root causes
    • ISO 9001:2015 clause 7.1.4, Environment for Operation of Processes, eliminates two more.
    • Clause 7.1.3, Infrastructure, eliminates two more.
    • Availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and dress codes that, for example, preclude loose clothing that can get caught in machinery, removes the last of the twelve root causes. With due credit to Agatha Christie, “And then there were none.” The takeaway is that off the shelf methods can suppress all twelve occupational health and safety incident root causes.
    • The webinar will also cover safety audits, workplace safety committees, and the hiyari hatto (“Experience of almost accident situation”) report through which anybody can initiate corrective and preventive action (CAPA) for safety problems. These also support ISO 45001:2018.

Who Should Attend:

  • Quality Departments
  • Saftey Departments
  • Manufacturing Departments
  • Engineering Departments
  • Quality Technicians


William Levinson

William (Bill) A. Levinson, P.E., is the principal of Levinson Productivity Systems, P.C. He is an ASQ Fellow, Certified Quality Engineer, Quality Auditor, Quality Manager, Reliability Engineer, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He holds degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering from Pennsylvania State and Cornell Universities, and night school degrees in business administration and applied statistics from Union College, and he has given presentations at the ASQ World Conference, TOC World 2004, and other national conferences on productivity and quality.

Mr. Levinson is also the author of several books on quality, productivity, and management. Henry Ford’s Lean Vision is a comprehensive overview of the lean manufacturing and organizational management methods that Ford employed to achieve unprecedented bottom line results, and Beyond the Theory of Constraints describes how Ford’s elimination of variation from material transfer and processing times allowed him to come close to running a balanced factory at full capacity. Statistical Process Control for Real-World Applications shows what to do when the process doesn’t conform to the traditional bell curve assumption.

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  • Presentation Handout in .pdf format
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