Compliance at a glance - Safe work procedures

Why do you need safe work procedures?

...because some work tasks carry risks.

Sometimes risks associated with a work task may be obvious, such as dangerous machinery and chemicals used in a manufacturing or construction environment. For other tasks the risks may not be as obvious - for example loading, unloading, packing, unpacking and handling goods in a retail environment may expose workers to back injuries or sprain/strain injuries. Safe work procedures ensure your workers are aware of the issues in their work tasks, and outline how to avoid injury or illness while doing these tasks.

Safe work procedures

Safe work procedures are a means of briefly documenting the risks associated with a work task and incorporating appropriate controls into a sequence of steps for doing the task safely. These documents are most effective when developed in consultation with your workers, and they provide a useful tool for training and supervising your workers. They should be reviewed if you have an incident at your workplace and/or changes occur in the workplace.

Complete the Compliance at a glance – How do you rate checklist first before checking your answers against the green, orange and red sections below.

  • … shows that your workers are unlikely to have documented instructions to help them do their jobs safely.

    Ticks in the red zone indicate that you need to take action immediately to identify the tasks your workers do that may expose them to safety risks. Work with them to develop simple procedures to do their work safely. A person conducting a business or undertaking has a duty to consult workers on health and safety issues directly affecting them.

    Identify and prioritise tasks that require safe work procedures

    Consider all the tasks that are done at your workplace. Safe work procedures should be developed for the tasks that could potentially harm your workers if the risks are not addressed.

    Many tasks are unlikely to expose your workers to risks, so documented safe work procedures for those tasks may not be necessary. Consult with workers about which tasks present a risk to them and determine how best to do the task safely. Develop safe work procedures for the tasks that pose the most serious consequences, and gradually work through those that present less serious consequences.

    Develop safe work procedures
    • Involve your workers, especially those that are experienced in performing the particular task— they are more likely to follow a safe work procedure if they have been involved in its development, and they will often know the best and safest way to perform a task.
    • Identify the elements of each task in order from start to completion of the job—e.g. a production line may involve lifting objects onto a bench, shaping them with an electrical grinder, cleaning them with solvents and stacking them on a pallet.
    • Identify the risk that each of these elements pose to those performing the task. Are there any risks of sprain/strain injuries from lifting and stacking? Does the grinder allow access to the moving parts that could cause injury? Are there dangerous fumes from the solvents?
    • Seek as much information about the risks as you can. For example, ask your workers about the risks, check machinery and equipment manuals, source best practice guidelines and read safety data sheets (for chemicals).
    • Control the risks—once you know what the problems are and how much of a problem they are, then you need to decide how to fix them; and then take some action to implement the control solution. The ways of controlling risks are ranked from the highest level of protection
      and reliability to the lowest. This ranking is known as the ‘hierarchy of risk control’.

    For further information refer to the Code of Practice – How to manager work health and safety risks.

    Document your safe work procedures—the easier your safe work procedures are to understand, the more likely your workers will follow them. List all the control measures you have identified as a series of steps set out in the order they need to be used.

    • Distribute the safe work procedures for review—have your experienced workers review the safe work procedures and make amendments as appropriate.
    • Once the procedure is finalised, you must communicate it to all staff— you need to tell them
      about what’s in it, don’t just get them to read it.
    Implement safe work procedures through trainingProper implementation of safe work procedures involves training and supervision. Your workers must be trained to do their work tasks safely and must demonstrate an ability to follow the safe work procedures. Simply reading the documented procedure is not enough; you must ensure that the safe work procedures are followed at all times. Discipline your workers when safe work procedures are not followed.
    Review your proceduresReview your safe work procedures when there is a change to your workplace or work process or after an injury or near miss associated with the task. As a general rule, do a periodic review of all your safe work procedures to ensure they remain current and effective and involve your workers in this review.
  • …shows that you’re on the right track, but you need to do more to address the risks in your workplace.

    Ticks in the orange zone indicate that you have started to address the risks associated with work tasks, but you may need to look more closely at the work tasks, identify any issues you may have overlooked, and ensure that your safe work procedures are appropriate and help your workers do their jobs safely. You may need to take the following action.

    Review work tasks

    Have you done a thorough inspection of the workplace and a complete review of all work tasks?

    Perhaps you may have overlooked risks associated with:

    • transporting chemicals
    • lifting and moving products
    • tasks performed at heights
    • areas where slips, trips and falls may occur
    • housekeeping
    • electrical equipment etc.

    Consult with your workers and get them involved in identifying the hazards associated with their work. Develop and implement safe work procedures for those tasks that pose the greatest risk.

    Plan your approach to developing safe work procedures

    Sometimes, business pressures or uncertainty about what to do next may stall the development and implementation of safe work procedures. Ask yourself:

    • Have work tasks been prioritised for developing safe work procedures?
    • Are workers involved in developing safe work procedures?
    • Have workers been trained in the safe work procedures for the tasks they perform?

    Plan the process carefully so that you are able to develop safe work procedures gradually, within the constraints of your other business demands. A good plan will potentially help you overcome limitations such as shortage of time and resources. You can delegate the preliminary development of procedures to others while still overseeing the process.

    Involve your workers

    The work health and safety legislation requires you to consult with your workers about matters relating to their work health and safety. Consult your workers in all stages of developing safe work procedures for the jobs they do—it will ensure that the procedures are comprehensive, accurate and useful. Involve your workers in:

    • identifying the issues and assessing the risks associated with their work
    • developing suitable options to control the risks
    • documenting and reviewing the procedures.
    Keep procedures up-to-date

    If you find that your workers are not always following safe work procedures, review the procedures to ensure they provide appropriate safeguards and reflect current work processes, equipment, and substances used in the task. Ensure that the procedures consider the different circumstances under which the task may be performed. If the procedure is not being followed, either workers (including supervisors) need to change what they are doing, or the procedure needs to be changed to reflect what is actually occurring.

    If the procedures appear up-to-date and appropriate, is the problem related to training or

    Have your workers been trained and assessed against the procedures before commencing the

    Are they adequately supervised in accordance with the procedures and their competence level?

    Do you and your supervisors always follow the procedures?

    For further information on training and supervision, see Compliance at a glance - Training and supervision.

  • … shows that your workers are using safe work procedures to help them do their jobs safely.

    Ticks in the green zone indicate that you are effectively managing safety risks in your workplace through your safe work procedures. Be aware, however, that changes in your workplace and work processes can make your existing controls and procedures ineffective. Review them regularly to ensure they continue to reflect existing conditions. Revise them as appropriate.

    Regularly review safe work procedures

    Determine if any technological changes have evolved since your last review that could make the task safer. Review the effectiveness of your training and supervision.

    Periodically verify that your vulnerable workers, including young people, people with disabilities and those with language difficulties, are able to understand the safe work procedures and use them effectively. Ensure these workers are properly represented during consultations about safe work procedures and related matters.