Written Safe Work Instructions

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Creating Written Safe Work Instructions

Sometimes called safe work 'procedures' or 'practices’, written safe work instructions list the steps to take in order to complete a task safely.

This module explains how to prepare and write safe work instructions.

When are written instructions required?

Where workplace hazards can’t be brought fully under control, employers are required to provide written instructions to support safe work and to make sure workers receive the training and supervision they need to work safely.

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation specifically requires written safe work instruction for a number of activities. For example:

  • Confined space entry
  • Using personal protective equipment
  • Preventing and dealing with violence in the workplace
  • Emergency evacuation
  • Chemical spills clean-up
  • Working alone or in isolation

How to prepare and write instructions

Preparing safe work instructions can take a fair amount of time and effort. However, here are some tips to help streamline the process.

  1. Involve the workers who regularly do the job, or the safety committee if you have one
  2. Break down the job into its various steps
  3. Put the steps in order and number them
  4. Identify the hazards of each step
  5. Summarize how people can be injured performing the task: make that the opening statement
  6. For each task, decide how best to minimize the risk of injury, and put it in writing
  7. Write short clear sentences
  8. Use “active” words (e.g., ‘lift the cover... ’not‘ the cover must be lifted...’)
  9. Make the instructions easy to look at. Use big headings, readable font, and leave enough empty spaces
  10. Have someone not involved in developing the instructions read them to make sure they are clear and meaningful

Here are a couple of examples of written safe work instructions.  The first example is for a fairly complex procedure, closing the shop when working alone.  It presents a series of steps that need to happen in a certain sequence.  These instructions for closing up shop while working alone should form part of a larger body of written instructions specifically for situations when staff work alone. For more information, please see the Working Alone module.

The second example is for using common equipment for a relatively simple task - using box cutters.

Take care when preparing or customizing safe work instructions to ensure they meet or exceed all applicable legislation and industry standards. It is a good idea to keep the OH&S Regulation beside you and refer to it as you write.

Where should written instructions be posted?

Written instructions should be posted prominently next to the equipment used for the tasks or near places where the tasks they describe are performed. Supervisors and managers will find them helpful for training workers who are meant to follow them.


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