BACKGROUND:Garment manufacturers have been adopting lean manufacturing in order to increase productivity and competitiveness. However, the effects of lean on occupational health and safety (OHS) of the workers are not clear. In the literature, there is an ongoing debate about whether lean and OHS are complementary or contradictory. OBJECTIVE:The goal of this study was to contribute to the knowledge base about the relationship between lean and OHS in garment manufacturing. METHODS:The study follows an action research methodology including an intervention aimed at improving productivity and OHS in six garment manufacturers in Bangladesh. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used for investigating the effect of lean tools on productivity and subsequently on OHS. RESULTS:We observed instances of improvements of OHS related to the application of three lean tools (VSM, 5 S, Time and Motion Study) in the factories. Furthermore, our results do not indicate negative health effect on workers’ short-term muscular pain, but rather show a statistically significant improvement of workers’ health. CONCLUSIONS:The results suggest that it is possible to apply lean without adverse effects for workers, if OHS risks are taken into consideration. However, possible long-term effects on workers’ health need to be further investigated.
- Repetitive strain injuries