What is 5S in workplace quality and safety?

Written by LetsBuild

Follow us


Share this story

Lean ebook cover

When it comes to quality and safety in the workplace, there are many different methods that you can use to ensure that everything is as good, or even better, than it should be.  However, out of all those items, 5S is the one that will really take your safety and quality to the highest level ever.

What is 5S?

5S is a system that will allow you to organize and manage your workspace, so that you can improve its efficiency.  It does this by improving the flow, reducing the process of many things, and eliminating waste.

This system is currently in use in many warehouses, manufacturing plants, hospitals, and offices around the world, so there is little doubt about how successful it can also be within the construction industry.

What Does 5S Stand For?

5S stands for the following:

  • Sort – Seiri
  • Set in Order – Seiton
  • Shine – Seiso
  • Standardize – Seiketsu
  • Sustain – Shitsuke

Let’s delve deeper into the meaning and action within each one of these subcategories.


When you tackle the first 5S, which is sort, you are determining which items or materials you need to remove by sorting through everything that you have.  There are many ways to do this, but the best one is to talk to all the members in your group and see if there are any defective tools or equipment, which would include broken and non-working items, outdated items, and other items that are not essential to the job at hand.

Once you have removed all the items that you all discover, you can determine how often you use the remaining items.  You can then tag those items as daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and never.  The ones that are tagged as never should be removed from the site, while the other ones can be placed accordingly.

If you are unsure about an item, you should set it in a temporary storage place until you can determine how useful it truly is for the work you are performing.

Set in Order

When you set your items in order, you are essentially determining which items to position, how many of the items to put in that location, and where to place those items.  We recommend always storing items where you can easily access them and making sure that they are in spots that you can get to quickly.  Basically, it is never a good idea to store anything in a place where you need to move five or ten things before you can get to what you need.

You will want to group tools and all your other items by how they are used and what jobs they are used for.  It is best to color code everything too, so you can find it easier in the future.  This is also the time to make sure heavier items are placed in a spot where you, or other workers, can easily lift them without straining your backs.


During the Shine aspect of 5S, you will spend your time cleaning to make the workplace safer and better to use.  We recommend creating a cleaning routine, as well as target dates and who is responsible for what job.

A sample routine can include spending a few minutes at the end of each shift cleaning up and ensuring all your tools and equipment are clean and ready to be used at a moment’s notice.  As you are following your new routine, you will want to check for oil spills, damage to tools or equipment, worn cables, burnt out lightbulbs, and anything else that is causing a mess or safety hazard.

If you cannot see that well in certain areas of your workplace, it may be necessary for you to install new lighting, which will help with your safety anyways.


Once you have achieved the three S’s above, you will want to create a system that will standardize all your new hard work.  We recommend creating visual reminders for employees and yourself to reference, as gentle reminders.  You can even assign each worker to a job, or rotate the jobs each week, so no one gets bored or lax with their assignment.

A digital checklist is also a helpful tool, because it allows you to quickly do audits and regular maintenance, while seeing which items have not been checked off in recent days.


Keeping up with the work that you are doing, or sustaining your new levels, is never going to be easy.  However, there are four different things that you can do to ensure that this new level of quality and safety is met with enthusiasm all around.

  1. Communicate

Have you told all your employees about the new procedures?  Is everyone aware of their new responsibilities?  If you are unsure of the answers to these questions, it may be time to have a meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page.

  1. Education

Adequate trainings are necessary, which means that you must make sure that everyone is educated on the new guidelines and knows how to do everything on the list.

  1. Offer Rewards or Recognition

While you may think that your employees will jump on this new program willingly, they will accept it easier if you recognize their efforts and maybe even offer rewards.

  1. Time

How often are you doing all these new things? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?  Make sure you make the new rules clear as to when everything needs to be completed.  This is also referring to your audits to see if the new procedures are working well or if changes need to be made.  However, make sure you allow enough time in between the start of the procedures and your audits to ensure that everyone has time to get things going in the right direction.

These five steps should ensure that your workplace, and your employees and yourself, are performing quality work while stay safe at the same time.  Yes, it will take time to implement all these changes and no, you shouldn’t expect to see major results in just a day.

However, by making small changes and implementing one of the five steps at a time, you will see results sooner than you think is possible.  So, start with the step that has you sorting through all your items and then keep going until you have checked all five S’s off you list.  We know you will be amazed at the results you see and experience while on the job.