Safe Work Procedures

Your company has safe work procedures. You’ve almost certainly seen them. In fact you’ve undoubtedly been trained or provided training on them.

But… did you ever stop to think why the company has those particular procedures? How did that selection of procedures come to exist? Were they plundered from the ‘internettywebby thingy’? Maybe they just grew organically, part of the company safety program.

SWP triangleCompanies tend to struggle with developing safe work procedures (SWP). More specifically, they don’t develop them. They buy, or ‘borrow’ them, and adopt them as their own. This can work, but tends to be less than optimal.

The COR audit has several questions about SWP’s. Here are some guidelines that may help your company develop or tune-up their SWP’s to better address the audit:

  1. Build SWP’s from a solid, known base – an inventory of job positions and tasks at the company can provide a base to build out from. SWP’s apply to employees. It makes sense that their job positions and tasks would be the base the SWP’s are built on.
  2. There should be a hazard identification process. At a minimum, this would typically include involvement of knowledgeable workers, input of the health & safety coordinator/rep., and review and inclusion of manufacturer specifications for new processes and equipment. It’s hard to build SWP’s without actually knowing what the hazards are.
  3. Use a methodical and repeatable process to evaluate the risk level of identified hazards. Every company has differing hazards and differing tolerance to those hazards and the accompanying risk. Sometimes the law dictates what the acceptable degree of risk is.
    Part of the risk evaluation process should include the use of a risk matrix to rank all of the identified risks. Typically, risk is assigned based on the probability of an event happening and the magnitude of the possible loss. Use the results from the risk matrix to prioritize the order to develop SWP’s. Risk matrices are standardized tools and examples are available on the internet.
  4. Develop controls to mitigate the risks. Use the control hierarchy as a starting point. (More on this in a future blog). The hierarchy is:
    a. Elimination/Substitution
    b. Engineering
    c. Administrative
    d. Personal Protective Equipment
  5. At the end of the process, look at the resulting SWP’s and determine if they are really representative of the work being done at your company.
    Ask yourself:
    – Will these instructions keep our employees safe?
    – Do these SWP’s meet all legislative requirements?
    – Are these SWP’s well written and easy to understand?
    – Are these SWP’s actually based on our workplace, employees, and the work they do?
  6. When you are satisfied with the results, train employees on the SWP’s. SWP’s don’t work unless they are applied.

Examples of SWP’s include: Load tarping, ladder use, vehicle entry & exit, distracted driving, load securement, manual materials handling, vehicle fueling.

Reprint from September, 2015

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