Leopardo Lean Coffee: How It’s Helping Achieve Safety Initiatives

Last Spring, Leopardo engaged the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) to conduct a safety climate assessment (S-CAT) to establish a safety culture baseline for our company. While the overall results were positive, the survey did reveal several opportunities for improvement in our existing safety program. These opportunities for improvement were by no means simple fixes. They required new ideas and fresh perspectives from all levels of the company. We decided that our safety committee was best-equipped to tackle these issues.

Leopardo’s safety committee is made up of employee volunteers ranging from journeymen in the field to executives in the office. For our company, that meant several variables were in play:

  • Our organization consists of a variety of departments and locations, all with differing safety perspectives and needs.
  • Some of our volunteers have strong, extroverted personalities. How do you facilitate a company meeting that allows the less vocal members of the organization a chance to voice their opinions and ideas?
  • Without proper planning, direction and facilitation, traditional meetings can become passive or stray into unwanted tangents.

After considerable thought, the safety committee decided to try lean coffee. At its core, lean coffee meetings are designed to be simple. There is just enough structure to establish a coherent and productive meeting.

We set up a personal kanban, or value stream, to the meeting. This consisted of potential discussion items, discussion items in progress, as well as action items generated from those discussions. Put simply: to do, doing and done. Discussion items were focused on the opportunities for improvement identified in the S-CAT survey and write-ins by the committee members (our to-do list). Committee members were given three votes each to democratically select the most important discussion items (our doing list). The committee then spent a pre-determined amount of time discussing each item and how it could be improved within our organization (our done list).

The results were remarkable. Adopting the lean meeting style provided everyone an equal number of votes generated discussion from all levels and personality types in the safety committee. It also encouraged more active meetings with no sitting around or passively attending the meetings. The resulting action items and new ideas have generated an impressive buzz within the organization that can be leveraged to strengthen and grow our safety program, which should be the goal of any safety committee.

Visit the following resources to learn more about lean coffee:

Ralph Barszcz, Vice President of Safety – With more than a decade of experience in many different facets of the construction industry, he is an industry-leading safety professional who is responsible for overseeing all safety aspects of construction at Leopardo. With a hands-on approach, he provides project safety leadership while working closely with the superintendent and project team to address specialty issues and logistics that are unique to each project.