Safety as an Emergent Property of the Production System: How Lean Practices Reduce the Likelihood of Accidents

Panagiotis Mitropoulos1, Gerardo Cupido2 & Manoj Namboodiri3

1Assistant Professor, Del E. Webb School of Construction, Arizona State University, Tempe AZ, 85287- 0204. Email: takism@asu.edu.
2Previously graduate assistant, Del E. Webb School of Construction, Arizona State University, Tempe AZ, 85287-0204. Email: gcupido@periniwest.com
3Graduate assistant, Del E. Webb School of Construction, Arizona State University, Tempe AZ, 85287- 0204. Email: manoj.namboodiri@asu.edu.

Abstract

The current approach to accident prevention does not account for the effect of work practices on the likelihood of accidents. This paper addresses the question “How do the production practices, and particularly lean practices, affect the likelihood of accidents in construction operations?” First we propose that the production system affects the likelihood of accidents in two ways: (1) by generating (or preventing) situations with increased task demands (increased potential of accident), and (2) by affecting the workers’ ability to cope with these situations (capabilities) and avoid errors. Then, we review the production system factors (technical and social) that influence the likelihood of accidents. The effect of production practices was examined through an exploratory field study of framing operations. The case study compared the production practices of a High Performance crew (in terms of productivity and safety) with the practices of an average performance crew. The evidence indicates that a focus on reducing uncertainty, errors and rework (practices consistent with lean production practices) and matching skills to task demands increased productivity while reducing the likelihood of accidents.

Keywords

Safety management, Accident prevention, Production management

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Reference

Mitropoulos, P. , Cupido, G. & Namboodiri, M. 2007, 'Safety as an Emergent Property of the Production System: How Lean Practices Reduce the Likelihood of Accidents' In:, Pasquire, C.L, C.L. & Tzortzopoulos, P., 15th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction. East Lansing, Michigan, USA, 18-20 Jul 2007. pp 282-293

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