Everyday, we encounter instructions to guide us through performing a certain task in the preferred or correct way. Consider the ‘How to Handwash’ or CPR poster commonly found in workplaces and hospitals.
Source:World Health Organisation
Procedures such as these are there to guide us in reaching a desired outcome, which in the case of the ‘How to Handwash’ poster is ‘clean safe hands’.
Procedures are not only useful for monotonous tasks such as washing your hands, but complex work tasks such as operating pieces of machinery. By breaking down work tasks into a logical sequence of steps, Safe Operating Procedures (SOPs) or Safe Work Procedures (SWPs) outline how workers are to perform work tasks / activities and remain safe and healthy.
Who should develop safe work procedures?
Helping to demonstrate to health and safety inspectors your company’s commitment to safety, safe work procedures should be developed anytime new equipment or work activities are introduced to the workplace. So who should be developing your SWPs?
The task of developing a safe work procedure should be undertaken by those in the business that are familiar with, and have hands on experience with completing the work activity. Equipped with adequate knowledge of the task, workers also best know the necessary control measures required to safely complete the task. Not only is it best practice to consult workers about work activities that affect their health and safety, but it also helps to ensure that all possible control measures are considered.
Getting started: Developing your safe work procedure
Before sitting down to write your safe work procedure it is important to have a full understanding of the task, the hazards it presents and any legislative requirements. The following steps will help you in gathering relevant information:
Step 1: Observe the task / activity.
Step 2: Undertake a risk assessment of the task to identify the hazards, level of risk associated and suitable controls for each step of the task / activity
Step 3: Review any legislative requirements including standards, codes of practice and manufacturer’s user manual. Relevant information from these resources should be included in the SWP.
What to include in your Safe work Procedure?
Key elements to include in your safe work procedure:
- Name of activity
- What PPE is required
- Outline of the steps required to complete the activity safely
- List of potential hazards and controls as identified in the risk assessment
- Identification of applicable warnings
- Emergency procedures and shutdown processes
- Legislative requirements and manufacturer’s user manual
- Management Commitment & Approval
Using Safe Work Procedures in the Workplace
Prior to introducing your safe work procedure into the workplace, testing should occur to ensure that instructions can be easily followed by workers and any necessary adjustments are made. From here the SWP must be approved by a nominated health and safety representative before it can be implemented into the workplace.
In providing instructions to assist workers in doing their job safely, it is essential that safe work procedures are made easily accessible. Displaying your SWP close to areas where work activities are conducted or near machinery is best practice.
Monitoring & Reviewing Your SWP
To ensure compliance with relevant WHS it is essential that safe work procedures are reviewed if:
- The task changes
- New hazards emerge that affect the SWP
- It is identified that the SWP is not effective
- There are legislative changes that affect the SWP
- A near miss, injury or incident occurs
Safe Work Procedures provide a practical means of controlling workplace risk. Don’t want to start from scratch? Browse our comprehensive library of over 100 Safe Work Procedures
Pre-filled with the steps required to complete work activities safely, all SWPs are available for use with Microsoft Word meaning you can customise to suit your business once downloaded.