Business & compliance advice

Writing a procedure that the worker can follow.

Written by Phoenix Health & Safety
31st May 2022
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Our lives are governed by procedures. The alarm wakes us in the morning; we go and take a shower, brush our teeth, have breakfast, get in the car and travel to work. What is your procedure when you arrive at work? 


The big difference between the procedure at home and that we follow at work is that the latter is written. Written procedures form the backbone of our work operations and are essential for a safe and healthy working environment.


What is a written Procedure?

A written or documented procedure (some as required by specific standards such as 45001) is a step-by-step guide to direct the worker through a task of activities to follow from beginning to end. 

 

Think about it when travelling to an unknown destination or going on holiday. You have done your research and looked at various maps to assist you in getting there safe using the best available options according to your needs: shortest route, safest route or with or without tollgate alternatives, non-motorway etc. This approach is the same when writing a procedure: detailed steps; outlining the most important parts of the process, written in a clear and logical sequence. 

 

It is essential to review your procedures regularly to make sure you are still on the right path towards your destination – this principle remains the same with written procedures. 


Why are written procedures so important?

Written procedures are crucial in establishing and enforcing work standards – they ensure consistency and serve as a training tool for new employees/workers or inexperienced employees/workers.

 

Procedures help with the retention of information, acting as a checklist or guidance tool, reminding us of what the task is and how it must be completed.


When a procedure is well developed, they have control aspects included, and they inform us of what to look for when reviewing or auditing towards compliance.

 

The whole exercise of developing the procedure with a task team assists us in reviewing actual activities and their positive and negative impacts. 

It is proof that we have a specific format for performing activities. 


Ten steps in writing an effective written procedure:

 

  1. Provide a purpose statement (why is this procedure required?)
  2. Provide an overview of the procedure. (what are you intending to achieve)
  3. Identify prerequisite knowledge and skills for the team that is going to put the procedure together. (who should be involved and who does it apply to)
  4. Highlight any health & safety issues and other precautionary measures.
  5. Add a list of equipment, supplies, or parts needed for the procedure.
  6. Define a logical sequence of steps and sub-steps.
  7. Include hints and helps.
  8. Add illustrations, analogies, models, or anything that will aid understanding of the process and the final product.
  9. Pilot test your procedure. Is it understandable, effective and complete? (Does it result in inefficient or effective performance?)
  10. Inform the reader of the performance standard to be applied when the procedure is a practiced skill.


Guidelines

One person should not put a written procedure together. You will need input from a variety of experiences, knowledge, and job levels to obtain good results. Consultation with workers is key to the successful buy-in and understanding and implementation of this procedure.

 

Keep the format and language simple for other users to understand with ease. 

 

Make sure it is systematic and organised to minimise confusion.

 

Write for the reader by incorporating short, simple sentences using familiar words in the terminology that is understandable and applicable to your organisation.

 

If possible, use pictures or flow diagrams – a picture is worth a thousand words.

 

What is in it for me? It is vital to educate and train the user of the procedure to realise the importance of following correctly, as it is for their own benefit.

 

The standard format of the procedure should be uniform throughout and should be carried over to contractors on site, if applicable.

 

Do not develop a 55 page+ procedure! Keep it short and simple!

 

Continually revise the procedure to determine effectiveness as well as any changes after an incident or when machines, conditions and employees change.

 

Be careful of the established employee/worker. Some will claim to know a shortcut and how to get away with it. However, if effective consultation and training have taken place, you will have received employees agreement on the correct steps for the procedure.


Example of a possible written procedure format:

• Purpose (Why?)

• Overview

• Scope (Where?)

• Objective (Measurement of success or failure)

• Definitions or terminology and abbreviations

• References (Legal, ISO, Company, etc.)

• SHEQ (Safety, Health, Environmental & Quality) issues and precautions

• List of SHEQ equipment, supplies or parts

• Responsibility & authority (Who?)

• Procedure (How?) including hints or suggestions

• Links to other procedures and risk assessments relevant to the topic.

 

Conclusion

A well-written procedure is a foundation for the employees/worker's successful and confident completion of their task. Focussing on ensuring their safety and a quality product or service as the end result.

 

It builds confidence and minimises health & safety incidents. It assists in possible legal implications that may arise due to an incident and could serve as valuable proof of what was or wasn't done during the performance of the task. But most important of all – if followed correctly, it should provide for a safe and healthy working environment! The health and safety of our people are our number one priority!


An in-depth procedure planning can be done through theNEBOSH National General Certificate