5 Key steps to developing effective workplace safety procedures

If you’re an employer of any size, it’s important to prioritize workplace health and safety in order to protect both your employees and your financial assets. Poor working practice is not only a drain upon efficiency but also a hidden drain on your costs.

According to self-reports submitted to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) more than 555,000 U.K. workers sustained non-fatal injuries while at work from 2017/18.

The main causes of these injuries?  Preventable workplace accidents. For the most part, they occurred while handling or carrying items, falling or tripping or coming into contact with another object.

In this blog we will look at how companies can get on the right track toward establishing a safer and more secure workplace, by putting in place effective and relevant safety procedures as part of workplace safety training.

As employers we need to understand that procedures can be the nemesis of any workplace health and safety management system.  Getting it wrong can be the difference between success and failure in safety compliance.

Sometimes procedures are created too rigid and bureaucratic, and other times they’re non-specific and ineffectual. The point is no one wants to be under the burden of unnecessary or unusable procedures. What is needed is the right balance of simple instructions that are easy to read and comprehend.

Developing your safety procedures

Procedures should communicate to employees what they need to know to do their job safely.

Here are 6 simple steps to follow:

  1. Justification – Ensure there is a genuine reason for writing a procedure.
  2. Identify User – Who will be the using the procedures and the task involved.
  3. Procedure Format – Use a simple and free-flowing method.
  4. Writing Style – Make sure you write for the intended user.
  5. Evaluate and monitor
  6. Document Control

Step 1 – Justification

The number one rule is to make sure there’s a justifiable reason to create a procedure. It will be impossible to develop effective health and safety procedures unless you have a clear idea of what you want them to achieve.  For example your objective might be to:

  • Improve working practices.
  • Reduce the number and severity of incidents.
  • Provide a written record of safety instruction.
  • Improve communication.
  • Comply with legislation.
  • Comply with ISO or industry standards.

Step 2 – Identification of who will be using the procedures and the task involved

It is important that you identify the end-users of any procedure before you start writing. As the procedure writer, you want a clear understanding of what’s going on in as much detail as possible. During this step, it’s critical to include your employees. Doing so will open your safety team up to new perspectives, allowing them to understand if the policy is workable and to what extent.

The workers will be the ones responsible for implementing the procedures. So, it’s essential to get their feedback and opinions and to factor them into the program itself.

Once all teams have met and offered their comments, the safety procedures can be drafted up.

Step 3 – Procedure format

Once you have all the information you then need to cut it down to simple stages that the end-user can understand. You may also find that using words alone is not the best option within a procedure. Sometimes you might have to use other elements to help communicate a process.

Always consider the following options:

Flowchart

This shows a process as a simple diagram. By using a series of symbols and arrows to indicate flow and action you can outline a process and make it easy to follow.

TipDon’t complicate your chart with too many symbols or too much text. It should flow naturally from start to finish and be structured in a logical way.

Photographs or diagrams

Are commonly used especially where there is difficulty in communicating due to illiteracy or use of multiple languages. The main goal of visualisation is to make it possible to absorb large amounts of data quickly.

Tip – The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image. However just make sure you check that your image or diagram is saying the right words to employees.

Step 4 – Writing style

Remember when you write you need to consider the end-user, the person who has to read and understand your procedure.

To ensure success adopt the following simple rules of writing:

  • Use plain everyday English words or local language. The use of uncommon, long or complex words or sentences should be avoided where possible.
  • Keep to short paragraphs and avoid using too many words. Just be specific enough to communicate clearly.
  • Write at the appropriate reading level.
  • Try to keep the procedure itself to a reasonable size ideally 1 to 3 pages. Any more than this and you chances of employee acceptance start to slip away.

Any written procedures should be short  and concise. Why? Because they are more likely to be read, used and remembered.

Step 5 – Analyse the effectiveness of the procedures

It is essential is to set actionable goals and objectives. These are metrics used to measure their effectiveness.

Periodic reviews can help your safety team analyse current safety statistics against prior ones. This can help ensure that progress is being made.

This time of reflection can also prove valuable by allowing your company to review the relevancy of each procedure. Is it still applicable to your company? Does it need to be tweaked to keep pace with operational changes?

Here, you can identify employees that need extra guidance to understand the procedures. You’ll also be able to reward those making significant strides when it comes to the safety they secure for themselves and others.

Step 6 – Document control

When it comes to safety procedures the question of document control is always of concern. Any procedure must be clearly identifiable and traceable. Ideally try to keep it to the basics controls for example;

Page Header: Procedure number and the Title of the Procedure

Page Footer:  Date of Issue: Revision Number, and Page number i.e., “Page 1 of 2”

Some companies include a cover sheet, index and legal references etc., which are taking up space and generally not needed.  There is nothing more annoying than seeing a procedures consisting of 5 pages, yet only 2 are actually defining the process.

Summary

Many people find writing procedures a daunting task. Yet it can be a rewarding experience as it allows you to directly interface with other employees across the organisation.

Remember there are many ways to write procedures, but by following simple rules you will have a higher chance of success. Make sure the procedure is absolutely necessary. Write it in a way that’s easily understood using simple words and keep it as short as possible.

Do you require additional support from a UK-based company to help you create and put in place policies and procedures around workplace health and safety?

If so, we are here to help. We are Fire, Health and Safety Consultancy and Training specialists with years of experience across many industry sectors. We are dedicated to helping companies provide the safest possible working environments for their employees in both a cost and time efficient manner.

Contact us today to get started.