How to develop Safe Systems of Work and why you need them

Safe Systems of Work (SSoWs) are designed to protect employees where workplace risks cannot be fully eliminated – a legal obligation for employers under the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974.

SSoWs are a fundamental element of health and safety for many businesses. They recognise that risks do exist in certain tasks, and define the procedures to be undertaken when completing such work.

Sometimes these procedures are formalised – within an operating manual, for instance – but at other times they may involve verbal rather than documentary instruction. So how do you develop Safe Systems of Work for your business, and what are the consequences of failing to do so?

5 steps to develop Safe Systems of Work

You need to carry out five steps when formulating Safe Systems of Work:

1.     Assess the task

Look at all aspects of a task to identify where risk lies, and decide how it can be managed. Consider:

  • What is used to complete the task: plant, machinery, substances, electrical equipment, for example
  • Who is involved in the task: think about training needs, the potential for error, emergency situations
  • Where the task is carried out: indoors or outside, close to other processes
  • How the task is completed: existing procedures, frequency, potential for failures

Employees carrying out the work must be involved in this assessment so the information gathered is accurate and reliable, and reflects the level of danger involved.

2.     Identify the hazards

Note down the hazards in each element of the task, assess the risks, and eliminate them as far as possible.

3.     Define safe methods

To develop Safe Systems of Work you need to include the workers who will physically carry out the task to ensure that all hazards have been identified at each stage. The severity of risk will determine whether the SSoW needs to be formalised:

  • Very low risk: verbal instruction with written rules on safety
  • Low and moderate risk: written SSoW
  • High risk: written SSoW or a permit to work
  • Very high risk (could include working in small spaces, use of flammable materials, hazardous substances, or electrical equipment: permit to work

4.     Implement the system

Staff training is crucial when you develop Safe Systems of Work. You must ensure that workers are competent to complete the task(s) in question, that they and their supervisors understand the hazards involved, and how the SSOW manages the risks.

5.     Monitor the system

Ensuring workers comply with the SSoW is a key part of the process, and you’ll need to regularly check that the system remains effective in its objective of minimising risk. An SSoW is essentially a fluid document, however, and may need to be amended if circumstances change.

Acorn Health and Safety can help you develop detailed and reliable Safe Systems of Work. We’ll ensure compliance and provide professional guidance on health and safety in your workplace. Please contact one of our highly trained consultants for more information – we offer a number of health and safety services, and work with clients around the country.

Need help with Health and Safety? Request a call back!

Request a call back from one of our expert Health and Safety Consultants who can help you whatever your health and safety, CDM or fire risk needs.

More Health and Safety Articles & News

Acorn Safety Services shortlisted for top award

By Neil Munro | 11th May 2021

A few days ago, we had a lovely surprise. We received an email telling us we had been nominated for the Best Customer Service award at the SME Northamptonshire Business Awards 2021. The next stage of the contest is a public vote and we have been touched by how many clients have already been in …

Read more

Is your workplace protecting people from legionella?

By Ian Stone | 4th May 2021

As more and more workplaces open up following the latest round of lockdowns there are lots of things that employers need to consider, to ensure employees and visitors to their premises remain safe. One-way systems have become the norm in many workplaces and the use of face masks and other Covid-19 related measures have become …

Read more

No excuse to ignore health and safety law with launch of new app

By Neil Munro | 27th April 2021

We were very interested to recently hear that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a bespoke mobile app which is designed to help organisations understand the law, their health and safety rights, and their responsibilities. The app has been created in partnership with The Stationery Office (TSO), and is primarily for small and …

Read more

What do Health and Safety breaches make you think about?

By Ian Stone | 20th April 2021

When I hear about health and safety breaches I always wonder how company bosses react to them. I’d like to think that bosses would take a minute to review their own practices and if they have employed experienced health and safety specialists they should feel confident that they are doing all they can to prevent …

Read more

Tragic case shows why we all need to take Health and Safety seriously

By Neil Munro | 13th April 2021

We were recently made aware of a very sad case which shows how tragic the consequences of a health and safety breach can be. A few weeks ago, Durham Crown Court heard that on 12 December 2015, Simon Hogg and Raymond Garrett were operating a waste processing line at the Aycliffe Quarry site of Stonegrave …

Read more

British organisations fined £11m for Health and Safety Breaches

By Ian Stone | 7th April 2021

During the first three months of 2021 businesses across Britain have been fined millions of pounds for breaching health and safety law. Between January and March, British firms, schools and local authorities were successfully prosecuted for a wide range of breaches which in many cases left workers and members of the public with life-changing injuries …

Read more

HSE boss calls for ‘renewed vigour’ to make workplaces Covid-secure

By Neil Munro | 1st April 2021

Last week, the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) new chair used her first blog of 2021 to set out the organisation’s expectations of firms across Great Britain in the coming months. Sarah Newton, who took over the top job at the HSE last August, reflected on the past year and the impact Covid-19 had, had …

Read more

Is the HSE warning firms to get their houses in order?

By Ian Stone | 23rd March 2021

At the beginning of the year, we shared the news that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had begun its search for a new Director of Legal Services. This was interesting because the role was a new position that had been created at the organisation following the HSE’s Chief Executive-led review. At the time, the …

Read more

Did you know we offer FREE Health and Safety Surgeries?

By Neil Munro | 16th March 2021

At Acorn Safety Services our expert team lives and breathes Health and Safety. We are passionate about what we do because our services keep people safe and help businesses to reduce staff absenteeism and ensure they are fully compliant with Health and Safety law. As a result, firms can say goodbye to the fear that …

Read more

Coronavirus

Are your staff in need of Covid-19 tests?

By Ian Stone | 9th March 2021

Increasingly, we are finding that frontline workers, including construction workers, are expected to have regular Covid-19 tests before they report to their sites or workplaces. Only last week we were asked by a client to undertake inspections on a site in London. Their client insisted that anyone who visited the site must have received a …

Read more