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Home » How To Incorporate The 5S Method Into Your Risk Management Plan
February 22, 2023

How To Incorporate The 5S Method Into Your Risk Management Plan

Man presenting the 5S Method in graphic formUnderstanding the 5S Method

A cluttered and disorganized workplace can result in numerous consequences, including reduced productivity levels, inefficient processes and serious safety hazards. With this in mind, it’s crucial for organizations across industry lines to have proper housekeeping procedures in place. That’s where the 5S method can help.

The 5S method refers to a series of organizational principles originally created in the 1950s by Japanese engineer and educator Hiroyuki Hirano. Since its initial debut, this method has been implemented by several large-scale companies—especially those within the manufacturing sector (e.g., Toyota, Harley-Davidson, Ford, Boeing and Nike). Altogether, the steps in this method promote housekeeping practices that can allow organizations to simplify their workflows, eliminate unnecessary waste, minimize potential safety concerns and boost operational success. This blog provides additional information on the 5S method, its benefits and best practices for implementation.



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Overview of the 5S Method

The 5S method primarily leverages visual cues and standardized protocols to maintain a clean and orderly workplace. In particular, this method centers around establishing housekeeping measures that encourage repeatable, productive, sanitary and—in turn—safe ways of working. There are five main organizational principles associated with the 5S method. Here’s a breakdown of those principles, also known as the key pillars of a visual workplace:

  1. Sort—This principle entails clearing clutter and removing nonessential items from work areas. Under the “sort” principle, employees should be required to keep their individual workstations clean. Further, all workplace items should be routinely evaluated to identify and address those that are misplaced, damaged or unnecessary. These items should be handled using red-tag protocols, in which objects are tagged with details regarding the date of and reasons for their removal; then, they are stored in a specified holding area for a set period of time (e.g., a month) until they can be properly relocated, repaired or disposed of.
  2. Set in order—This principle pertains to organizing work areas in a way that makes all essential items (e.g., tools and equipment) easy to find. Under the “set-in-order” principle, every item should have a designated storage location. Additionally, both storage areas and foot traffic routes within these areas should be adequately marked with floor tape or similar tools. These markings can help reinforce housekeeping standards to employees by offering visual reminders of where items belong.
  3.  Shine—This principle involves upholding routine inspection and cleaning procedures, thus increasing the likelihood that all work areas and items remain in good condition. Under the “shine” principle, there should also be certain processes in place for handling spills, leaks, debris and other potential messes to ensure these issues are handled as efficiently as possible.
  4.  Standardize—This principle entails effectively communicating and enforcing housekeeping measures to employees. Ultimately, clear workplace expectations should be set across teams and departments, and it should be easier for staff to spot possible errors or inconsistencies before they become larger problems. Under the “standardize” principle, employees should be regularly reminded of housekeeping protocols through safety signage, documented workflows, labeling or color-coding systems, cleaning logs and routine training.
  5.  Sustain—This final principle pertains to regularly reviewing housekeeping measures to ensure their effectiveness and adjusting them as needed based on changes or shifts in workplace exposures, processes and technology. Under the “sustain” principle, housekeeping protocols should be evaluated on a set schedule (e.g., quarterly or annually) and improved upon when necessary to address any new or ongoing organizational issues. Evaluation procedures may include performing documented housekeeping audits, analyzing cleaning reports and gathering employee feedback.

Benefits of the 5S Method

The 5S method can benefit organizations in a variety of ways. Key advantages of this method include:

  • Reduced waste—Organizations can significantly minimize both physical and operational waste by removing clutter and addressing misplaced, damaged or nonessential workplace items. In this way, the 5S method not only encourages a clean work environment but can also help organizations identify overproduction issues and avoid storing excess inventory or unnecessary materials—therefore providing additional space for critical resources and processes.
  • Bolstered productivity—Establishing a clutter-free and orderly workplace may also allow organizations to increase productivity by simplifying workflows and ensuring optimized practices. After all, clean and organized work areas often limit employees’ environmental distractions and provide workers with easier access to necessary tools and equipment. This may help them stay focused on their tasks and complete assignments at more efficient rates.
  •  Improved safety—Through proper housekeeping measures, organizations can mitigate numerous clutter-related safety concerns—including slip and trip hazards, falling objects, obstructed pathways, emergency exit blockages and exposure to dangerous materials. Therefore, the 5S method can make all the difference in helping organizations maintain a safe work environment, keeping potential accidents and related injuries to a minimum.

Implementing the 5S Method

When implementing the 5S method, it’s important for organizations to utilize the following best practices:

  • Take note of existing issues. In order for organizations to determine proper housekeeping protocols for their unique operations, they should first assess their work areas and existing practices to identify critical issues. One way to do so is through value stream mapping (VSM). Generally, VSM entails looking at the current state of operations, reviewing their effectiveness and finding opportunities for organizational improvements. Any identified issues and proposed solutions should be ranked in order of importance to help generate an implementation schedule.
  • Consider available resources. After selecting adequate housekeeping solutions, organizations should closely evaluate their available resources to ensure they have ample time, personnel and materials to implement such solutions. Without proper resources in place, it could prove particularly challenging for organizations to successfully integrate the 5S method into their operations. Following these evaluations, organizations should either make additional investments or readjust their housekeeping protocols to match overall resource availability.
  •  Make it a team effort. The 5S method requires teamwork, communication and collaboration. This means that those in charge of implementing housekeeping procedures within a given environment should be largely familiar with its associated work areas, tools, equipment and operations. Further, organizations should be sure to provide employees with proper training on the 5S method and specific housekeeping requirements for their work areas to ensure successful implementation. During training, employees should also be educated on the dangers of poor housekeeping and encouraged to speak up if they notice cluttered or disorganized conditions. It may even be useful for organizations to host routine brainstorming sessions where employees can share their ideas on additional ways to improve housekeeping practices.
  •  Follow through. Lastly, organizations should make it a priority to follow through on the 5S method and consistently uphold effective housekeeping measures. This may involve having supervisors leverage checklists or other documentation to regularly assess workplace conditions and ensure work environments remains clean and orderly. If housekeeping concerns persist, these issues should be taken seriously and addressed immediately.


Overall, it’s evident that organizations of all sizes and sectors should have effective housekeeping measures in place for productivity, efficiency and safety purposes. By implementing the 5S method, organizations can uphold a clean and orderly work environment, ultimately ensuring productive and safe operations.

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