Standard/Safe Operating Procedures (SOP)
What is a Standard Operating Procedure?
A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) sometimes called a Safe Operating Procedure, outlines a set of detailed instructions to help workers perform complex tasks properly and safely. Having standard operating procedures in place means workers don’t have to guess what to do next and can perform tasks efficiently and without danger to themselves or others. Failure to follow SOPs may cause significant safety breaches or loss in production and operational efficiency.
SOPs can be used in any industry and can outline procedures for:
- high-risk tasks
- new processes
- training initiatives.
- quality and compliance purposes and
- routine activities;
Top 4 Benefits of Implementing SOP's
There are significant benefits of incorporating a SOP into a workplace. Creating a set of SOPs for your organisation can be one of the most important support tools you can use.
Here are just four benefits of using a SOP in your workplace:
1. Creates a healthier and safer environment
SOPs describe in detail how hazardous equipment should be used and processes conducted to perform the work safely. Safe operating procedures help reinforce safety protocols to prevent unforeseen accidents and fatalities. Documented, step-by-step procedures can save lives.
2. They help with communication
Well written SOPs communicate responsibilities to workers, so they don’t have to rely on their memories. Managers also don’t need to keep retraining workers, and the organisation can provide consistent information to those who need it.
3. Improves the efficiency and consistency of processes
Differences in work processes can compromise work quality and efficiency. By referring to the SOP for a particular procedure, your new workers will know exactly how to perform an assigned task. SOPs can help assist in standardising critical processes to reduce variations in completed work. SOPs can also greatly assist with improving a Quality Management System (QMS) and can help prepare an organisation for ISO certification.
4. Helps with training workers
SOPs can complement your existing training materials to educate new workers and provide training on new equipment or processes. SOP procedures and steps should be drafted by experienced senior personnel and checked they are suitable for use by all staff. Remember, some workers may not have English as a first language or may have different literacy levels. Using images in a SOP not only makes it easier to comprehend but helps to ensure it is understood when needed.
Example SOP Format
- Document Control –Provision for the SOP title, version number, SOP number
- Management commitment and approval –A statement of management commitment and signature of the person authorising the SOP, and sign off date.
- PPE –Icon list indicating required PPE for the task
- Hazards and precautions –Identification of any hazards that will be addressed by the SOP and precautions that must be taken
- Pre-operation Inspection – Things you need to consider before starting the actual task, for example, is the area cleared of unnecessary personal, are permits or notifications in place?
- Operational sequence - Provides unambiguous and clear descriptions of each process step.Procedure steps should be written in a concise and easily read structure.
- Post operational tasks –any related information for when the task has been completed, e.g. notifications or reference to another SOP
A SOP can help assist in standardising critical processes to reduce variations in completed work.
Are Paper Documents Effective for Creating SOPs?
Digital documents are great for many uses, and some SOPs work great in a digital format; however, paper-based documents still play a key role in making sure that workers can readily access and use the SOP in their daily duties. An effective SOP is one that is easy for staff to use and be available at all times regardless of the type.
Advantages of a paper-based SOP
- Read and perform SOP procedures in a familiar format
- Does not rely on a power source to view
- No hardware or software issues
- Can be placed at a specific site location for all workers to access, i.e. does not require a worker to have access to a personal digital device
Advantages of a digital SOP
- Create paperless SOP templates
- Capture electronic signatures and collect data
- Can create and update SOPs from a central location
SOPs available for instant download and supplied in fully editable Word formats for use in your business.