22 Rules, Respecting Humanity?

[tweetmeme source=”leanisgood” service=”ow.ly” only_single=false]I recently read a plant newsletter that list 22 keys to forklift safety. Twenty-two.  Many of these are pretty intuitive and are pretty easy to remember if not somewhat ‘natural’ to someone who is used to operating any motor vehicle.  Some forklift operators will probably read this list of rules and integrate a couple of these keys into their behaviors – they will learn something they will retain on an intuitive level.  The bigger question isn’t really about forklift safety though.  The bigger question goes to the idea of 22 rules.

If your model of respecting people includes respecting their inherent limitations don’t you have to question the idea of 22 rules for anything?

Too often rules can be used to hold people accountable after they have violated them.  Once posted or published rules often become ‘the law.’  When someone violates one of the 22 rules we can now punish that person in order to send the message that the organization is ‘serious about safety.’

A better way might be to build safety into the the systems and equipment.  If people are supposed to keep hands or feet out of certain areas, put some physical barrier to sticking hands and arms there.  If people ‘drive to fast’, put speed limiting devices on powered industrial vehicles.  Make it so it won’t start without a buckled seat belt (this can easily be bypassed, but it helps those who CHOOSE to work safe remember how.)  If powered vehicles aren’t supposed to go into an area, clearly mark the areas at minimum (visuality), or maybe even put physical barriers in place to preclude vehicles entering these areas (physical contact poka-yokes.)

The 22 rules for forklift safety that I read are all really good ideas.  They make an excellent start on a ‘standard’ for forklift safety.  the challenge for those of us who make an effort to respect people is to make that standard as integral to the process as possible (jidoka).  If we can’t immediately build the standard physically into the equipment and the environment then we should make a decent effort to make the standard a visually obvious and intuitive as possible.  After all we call it continuous improvement not instant perfection.

Whenever you see a bunch of rules consider them opportunities for a well intentioned person to screw something up.  Looking at long lists of rules in that context makes the need for building the standard into the process all the more poignant.

It really doesn’t matter if the rules are about forklift safety, achieving takt time or producing a product that meets it design intent and therefore adds the value that the customer wants, we need to build the standard into the process or at least make it visually intuitive at a glance.

Please let me know if I have this wrong.  Do you have any long lists of rules?

Bruce

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4 Responses

  1. I like simplicity. Steve Jobs said “Simplicity is the utlimate sophistication”. I wonder if you need that many rules. That is a lot to remember. Tha is a lot to enforce. That is a lot of mistake proofing. I wonder if that is overburdening the system. Sounds like some opportunity to reduce the complexity of operatoring a fork truck while still providing a safe environment.

    Tim McMahon
    A Lean Journey
    http://leanjourneytruenorth.blogspot.com

  2. Most locations for truck drivers are certified or licensed to drive their fork trucks. There is a written and driving test just like an automobile. I think it is well intentioned to focus on safety and publish the 22 rules. I also think someone is fooling themselves if they think people will have the attention span to read all 22 at one time. I like the poka yokes for this one. I think they would fit well but as Tim mentioned it would be a lot to do as well as a lot of money. I would think that if this was an awareness piece for the newsletter it would have been better served with smaller bites over multiple newsletters. 22 is a bit much.

  3. Bruce: Super article and great writing. I think you got it right. The only thing I would explicitly add is that “rules” for doing a job should be trained into workers; properly trained people don’t need to read a newsletter to remind them how to do their jobs. An exception is the proper use of checklists. Superficial lists of the type you described are useless. They are symptomatic of listless leadership that needs to list less and act more.

  4. I know all to much about the amount of rules, working for the government is more about rules and making sure all of the boxes are checked than getting the job done in a safe efficient manner.

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