Everyone benefits from safer ways of working

Lemminkäinen’s building construction sites in Vaasa applied accurate analytical tools as part of the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) approach to reduce the accident frequency rate. The change was implemented by analysing the working methods carefully.

“Even the most extensive development projects begin with small steps. We can proceed one element at a time,” says Marjut Valtonen, Occupational Health and Safety Manager at Lemminkäinen.

At construction sites in Vaasa, the accident frequency rate decreased from 47 to 29 in one year, while lost time decreased from 172 to 21 days. Safety observations increased from 36 to 84. These improvements in safety reduced the expenses caused by accidents by more than EUR 100,000 per year.

Management commitment plays a key role

The management’s strong commitment was essential for the successful implementation of the project. “The entire management organisation under Regional Director Mikael Snellman was actively involved, and representatives of all the employee groups also participated in the project,” Valtonen explains.

As a result of the project, the weekly meetings are effective, construction sites have become tidier and fewer risks are taken. At the same time, safer and more practical tools and auxiliary devices are continuously sought for construction sites. For example central vacuum systems were acquired to reduce dust, and an employee in charge of sanding access routes was assigned to each construction site.

The freeing up of resources and smoother work have resulted in more efficient time management. “Instead of preventing accidents, we can now increasingly focus on the working capacity and occupational well-being of our personnel,” Valtonen adds.

Focus on key issues

Valtonen says LSS is beneficial for everyone whose work involves operational systems and development. “Try to find the issues that are worth focusing on. Make use of statistics in problem-solving. Be systematic.”

Following the excellent results achieved in Vaasa, similar measures have been introduced elsewhere. “There is no limit to what a committed team can achieve.”

The Vaasa recipe for improving safety at work

  • Shared responsibility – the same obligations and good practices apply to all construction sites, including subcontractors.
  • Putting a stop to silent approval
  • A proactive approach reduces rushing
  • No risks are taken
  • Construction sites are rewarded for zero accidents

Lean Six Sigma

  • Six Sigma is a systematic way of working based on statistical methods to reduce process errors and deviations.
  • Lean focuses on streamlining processes to reduce unnecessary work and the amount of tied-up capital.
  • Lean Six Sigma is a way of thinking that combines the best aspects of these two approaches. Lemminkäinen has successfully applied Lean Six Sigma thinking to many development projects in various businesses.