Lean Business Efficiency and Safety go Hand-In-Hand


[Originally published 06/09/13 as Business Efficiency and Safety go Hand-In-Hand]

The relationship between business process efficiencies and safety can be quite marked.  A key component of business process efficiency is elimination of waste, which is often in the form of motion that creates ergonomic stress.  Elimination or reduction of these forms of waste eliminates or minimizes the potential for costly injuries.  Work related back strain is one such significant and costly efficiency related risk1:”The average back injury (sprain/strain) can cost more than $10,000 in direct costs (NSC Statistics) and anywhere from $30,000 up to $100,000 in indirect costs.” (Text box pg. 2)                                    

 A second significant risk that is among the highest costs of all injuries or illness is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) 2 resulting from repetitive motion waste.  Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (2009, pgs. 3-4)3 describes sources of CTS risk as follows:

Work-related CTS is most often associated with activities requiring extensive, forceful, repeated, or prolonged use of the hands and wrists, particularly if these potential risk factors are present in combination (e.g., force and repetition or force and posture). Usually, one or more of the following work conditions occurs on a regular basis to support work-relatedness:

1. Forceful use, particularly if repeated

2. Repetitive hand use combined with some element of force, especially for prolonged periods

3. Constant firm gripping of objects

4. Moving or using the hand and wrist against resistance or with


5. Exposing the hand and wrist to strong regular vibrations

6. Regular or intermittent pressure on the wrist 

Safety table

[click on image for clear view]

When looking for lean process improvements, consider not only improvements that generate immediate cost savings, but also those that reduce potential future costs and human suffering within your workplace.

1Gagne, R. (2011). What Does a Workplace Injury Cost? Direct Versus Indirect Costs and Their Affect to the Bottom Line. Fit2WRK.  Retrieved from: http://www.fit2wrk.com/clinics/fit2wrk/_forms/ARTICLE_Fit2wrk_ClinicalEd_vol1-16.pdf

2Sharp. Economic Burden of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Retrieved from: http://www.lni.wa.gov/Safety/Research/OccHealth/Reports/CtsBurden/default.asp

3Franklin, G., Jvaher, S., Kearney, R.  (2009). Medical Treatment Guidelines. Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Retrieved from:  http://www.lni.wa.gov/ClaimsIns/Files/OMD/CTSGuidelineFINAL.pdf