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Do you have a Safe System of Work?

Do you have a Safe System of Work? back to list

05 June 2015

A Safe System of Work (SSOW) or Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) is a formal procedure allowing you to methodically examine a working process and identify all the hazards associated with the task. It describes working methods that will eliminate those hazards or minimise the risks associated with them.

A SSOW supports effective risk management by outlining the control measures required to avoid or reduce the risks in the workplace, which are usually identified through a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.

SSOWs comprise comprehensive procedures that show how employees can safely interact with the people, materials, equipment and plant that form their work, thereby minimising risk. Failure to use a SSOW in an occupational management system could increase the number of injuries, the risk of prosecutions and your insurance premiums.

You must ensure that the procedures are followed at all times. The only way to do this is to involve the relevant employees in the process and ensure that once the SSOW is completed and implemented it is communicated to all parties.

Jobs, tasks or activities will require different levels of SSOW. Depending on the levels of risk highlighted in the risk assessment process, some low-risk activities may require only adherence to safety rules or an agreed guide, which may or may not be in writing. Very high-risk activities such as hot works will require a formal written permit to work system that requires signed authority.

These are the factors a safe system should include:

  • Adequate premises/layout
  • Safe design/planning
  • Adequate safeguards
  • Safe installation/commissioning
  • Provision of a safe and healthy working environment
  • Provision of safe access/egress
  • Suitable tools
  • Adequate instruction, information and training
  • Safety rules (job safe instructions)
  • Planned maintenance
  • Adequate proactive monitoring
  • Issue of personal protective equipment (as a last resort).

When you look at the task that needs to be carried out, it is usual to ask a number of questions, and these include:

  • What is being done?
  • Why is it being done?
  • Who is doing or can do the task?
  • When does the task have to done?

The answers to these questions will enable you to examine all parts of the process and determine whether it could be made safer by using a different order.

Once you have implemented your SSOWs, you should ensure that they are reviewed on an annual basis. The review should be the responsibility of the line management, supervisors and safety representatives who should have annual review targets for all safe systems within their areas of control.

The review should ensure:

  • Legislative compliance- have there been any new Regulations or ACOPs (Approved Codes of Practice)?
  • Compliance with most recent risk assessments
  • Any accidents, injuries or diseases are taken into account to further improve controls
  • Any new or modified plant/equipment is considered
  • Safer substances are considered
  • New working methods are incorporated
  • Any changes and improvements to safe systems must be communicated to all concerned.

If you are unclear about any of the above, your BOSS Federation H&S Adviser will be able to help you.


For further information please contact:
Lynda Taylor
Lynda Taylor
07801 981340
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