What is 7S safety?

7S safety is a comprehensive approach to improving workplace safety that focuses on seven key areas often referred to as the 7Ss. The 7Ss stand for surroundings, systems, skills, style, staff, shared goals, and safety. By evaluating and enhancing each of these elements, organizations can create a strong safety culture and reduce incidents and injuries. Let’s take a closer look at each of the 7Ss and how they contribute to safety excellence.


The surroundings element refers to the physical work environment and conditions. This includes the layout and design of the facility, noise levels, lighting, air quality, housekeeping, and other environmental factors. A cluttered, noisy, or otherwise unsafe work environment can lead to distractions, fatigue, and accidents. Organizations should conduct safety walkarounds and inspections regularly to identify hazards and opportunities for improvement. Maintaining clean, orderly, and ergonomic work areas demonstrates a commitment to safety.

Key actions for improving surroundings:

  • Conduct routine housekeeping and 5S activities
  • Address tripping hazards and obstructed walkways
  • Improve ventilation and airflow
  • Upgrade lighting to reduce glare and eye strain
  • Control noise sources that make communication difficult
  • Select ergonomic furniture, equipment, and tools


The systems component refers to the formal and informal policies, programs, procedures, and processes that influence safety. Examples include safety management systems, hazard reporting, job hazard analysis, emergency response plans, incident investigation, preventive maintenance, and more. Strong systems allow organizations to identify and control hazards proactively. They also provide structure for consistent safety practices across departments. Safety should be integrated into all organizational systems from production to purchasing.

Key actions for improving systems:

  • Develop a safety committee and hold regular meetings
  • Document safety procedures and update regularly
  • Implement a near-miss and hazard reporting system
  • Conduct job hazard analyses for high-risk tasks
  • Perform thorough incident investigations and implement corrective actions
  • Incorporate safety criteria into equipment purchasing decisions


The skills element focuses on the capabilities of individual employees with regard to safety. This includes both soft skills like communication, leadership, and hazard recognition as well as hard skills like proper machine operation, protective equipment use, ergonomics, and emergency response. A skilled workforce is better equipped to work safely. Organizations should provide comprehensive safety training and resources to develop employee skills.

Key actions for improving skills:

  • Provide onboarding and ongoing safety training
  • Cross-train employees to enhance versatility and hazard awareness
  • Offer skills assessments to identify potential gaps
  • Use demonstrations, simulations, and hands-on practice to reinforce training
  • Encourage participation in safety committees and other leadership roles
  • Share lessons learned, best practices, and safety alerts


Style describes the leadership and communication approaches that shape the organizational culture. Leadership commitment and involvement in safety is critical. Leaders should serve as role models by following safety rules and promoting open communication. A top-down command and control style often discourages employee participation. An open and collaborative style that engages the workforce is more effective. Communication should be two-way and frequent.

Key actions for improving style:

  • Demonstrate strong leadership commitment to safety
  • Set a strong example by complying with safety policies personally
  • Promote collaboration and employee participation in safety decisions
  • Communicate transparently about safety issues, goals, and performance
  • Recognize positive safety behaviors and accomplishments
  • Encourage reporting of hazards, near-misses, and concerns


The staff element refers to organizational structure, roles, and responsibilities related to safety. Larger organizations often have dedicated environmental health and safety (EHS) specialists. However, safety should be everyone’s responsibility, not just that of the safety manager. Roles and responsibilities for safety should be clearly defined across all levels and functions. Safety responsibilities should be integrated into job descriptions, performance reviews, and reward systems.

Key actions for improving staff focus on safety:

  • Designate a safety manager and safety committee members
  • Outline safety responsibilities for managers, supervisors, and employees
  • Include safety in job descriptions, hiring practices, and performance reviews
  • Provide incentives or recognition for safety performance
  • Encourage all employees to participate in safety activities and programs
  • Offer training for safety leaders on skills like hazard identification, incident investigation, and safety communication

Shared Goals

Shared goals represent the values and objectives that unite the organization around safety. Safety goals and vision statements should align with broader business goals rather than compete with priorities like production and quality. When considering safety tradeoffs, the shared goal should be reducing risk and protecting people. Leaders must communicate this consistently in words and actions. Other shared goals like sustainability, wellness, or social responsibility can also complement safety.

Key actions for cultivating shared safety goals:

  • Establish clear, measurable safety goals and objectives
  • Embed safety goals into the organization’s vision and values statements
  • Discuss safety and priorities during meetings at all levels
  • Reinforce that productivity goals do not compromise safety
  • Align safety initiatives with related goals like sustainability or wellness
  • Report regularly on safety performance and progress toward goals


Finally, the safety component represents the outcomes of the other 6Ss. This includes leading and lagging indicators of safety performance like injury rates, incident trends, hazard reports, training completion, inspection findings, and audit results. Organizations should track multiple metrics to gauge different aspects of safety effectiveness and progress. Data should be monitored, analyzed, and used to drive continuous improvement across all the 7Ss.

Key safety metrics to track:

  • Lost time and recordable incident rates
  • Near miss and hazard reports
  • Corrective actions closed on time
  • Safety training completion
  • Inspection findings and resolutions
  • Safety perception survey results
  • Safety program audit scores
  • Participation in safety activities and committees

Implementing the 7S Safety Framework

Transforming safety culture and performance requires a concerted effort across all elements of the 7S framework. Here are some tips for implementation:

  • Obtain leadership commitment and resources
  • Conduct a gap assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses across the 7Ss
  • Develop goals and an action plan for improvement initiatives
  • Communicate the plan and engage employees throughout the process
  • Empower employees to participate in solutions tailored to their workplace
  • Incorporate safety into all organizational processes and decisions
  • Measure both activities and outcomes to track progress
  • Review action plans regularly and update based on audit results
  • Celebrate successes while continuously striving for improvement

Benefits of the 7S Approach

Focusing comprehensively on the 7Ss provides many advantages for safety excellence:

  • Proactive – Controls hazards before incidents occur
  • Broad perspective – Covers technical, human, and cultural aspects
  • Aligns safety – Integrates safety with business priorities
  • Engages workforce – Collaborative approach taps employee insights
  • Shared accountability – Everyone contributes to safety
  • Data-driven – Metrics identify issues and track improvement
  • Continuous improvement – Reinforces importance of ongoing safety efforts

Challenges of the 7S Approach

While impactful, the 7S approach also comes with some potential challenges:

  • Requires strong, consistent leadership commitment
  • Can be time and resource intensive to thoroughly address all elements
  • Relies heavily on employee involvement and participation
  • Not as structured as some other safety models
  • Difficult to sustain momentum long-term
  • Tracking too many metrics can be cumbersome

7S Safety Framework in Action

Let’s look at an example of the 7S safety framework applied in an automotive parts manufacturing facility:


The facility was cluttered with materials and parts obstructing walkways. Workstations lacked ergonomic designs and adjustments. Noise levels were high due to machine operations and fans. Poor ventilation resulted in heat exposure risks during summer months.

Improvements: Conducted a 5S event to eliminate clutter and unnecessary items. Redesigned workstations for better ergonomics. Installed noise enclosure panels around loud machinery. Added cooling fans and exhaust systems to improve air circulation.


No formal safety management system was in place. Very few procedures existed and were not regularly updated. Hazard inspections only occurred reactively after incidents. Minimal safety training was provided.

Improvements: Implemented a safety management system with documented procedures. Established a preventive maintenance program and schedule. Initiated job hazard analyses and routine self-inspections. Developed comprehensive training curricula by job role.


Employees lacked proper training on machinery operation, chemical safety, and ergonomics. No formal process existed for onboarding new hires. Some long-tenured employees used unsafe practices learned over time.

Improvements: Provided training on specific equipment, hazard communication, lockout/tagout, electrical safety, fall prevention, and other key topics. Implemented a structured onboarding program including safety fundamentals. Coached long-tenured staff on safer work methods.


Leadership team was rarely present on the production floor. They emphasized productivity and quality objectives over safety. No safety metrics were tracked or shared with employees. Limited opportunities existed for employee feedback.

Improvements: Supervisors and managers spent time daily on the floor engaging with staff. Senior leaders participated in safety walks and committees. Clear safety goals were established, posted, and reviewed regularly. Suggestion boxes were installed to collect employee ideas.


No dedicated environmental health and safety (EHS) role existed. Manufacturing managers were responsible for safety, often as a secondary priority. Hourly production staff had little formal safety responsibility.

Improvements: Hired a full-time EHS Manager to lead initiatives. Incorporated safety responsibilities into job descriptions for all personnel. Formed a safety committee with representatives from production lines.

Shared Goals

The organization’s values highlighted productivity, quality, and cost reduction. The priority was meeting production targets. Little consideration was given to balancing production and safety.

Improvements: Updated company values and vision to include worker health and safety. Emphasized that production goals would not compromise safety. Reviewed key metrics at monthly meetings.


Limited safety metrics were tracked. Lagging indicators included recordable incident rates and lost time cases. No leading indicators were measured. Data was not regularly reviewed or analyzed.

Improvements: Established leading indicators to monitor proactive activities and conditions. Collected data on training, inspections, hazard reports, safety suggestions, and more. Automated data for regular reviews and trend analysis.


The 7S framework provides a holistic approach to safety improvement that engages all levels of the organization. While the methodology requires commitment and a data-driven culture, the payoff is a strong safety system aligned with business objectives. Organizations can gain significant reductions in incidents, injuries, costs, and risk by focusing comprehensively on the 7Ss of safety management.

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