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Creating Written Instructions

Creating Written Instructions

Where hazards can't be brought fully under control, written step-by- step instructions must be provided to help staff control the risk of work related injury.

In the technical language of health and safety, written instructions are often called “Safe Work Procedures”, “Practices” or “Documented Procedures”. Ultimately, all those words just refer to having written instructions.

The point of writing down step-by-step instructions is to make sure everyone knows how to handle certain situations and do certain jobs safely. Written instructions are essentially handy reminders of things people need to learn during hands-on training.

Written instructions are also very useful tools for providing new workers with practical, on-the-job training. They ensure that everyone gets the same information, which helps to maintain consistency.

Written instructions also help to improve productivity: people don’t have to start from scratch every time they face a new task and they have a guide when they forget how to do something.

What kinds of written instructions does your staff need?

Having written instructions for dealing with emergencies is mandatory. Written instructions should also be created for:

Preparing written instructions can take considerable time and effort. But doing a good job is worth it. The clearer the instructions, the better they will be followed and the more they will be used.

Here are some tips to help streamline the process of writing instructions:

  • Involve the people who regularly do the job and, if you have one, the joint health and safety committee
  • Break down the task into small steps
  • Put the steps in order and number them
  • Identify the hazards of each step
  • Try to remove the hazards by changing something about the way the task gets done. If you can’t change the task, find a way to control the hazard
  • Write short clear sentences
  • Use “active” words (e.g., ‘lift the cover...’ not ‘the cover must be lifted...’)
  • Make them easy to look at and easy to use. Use big headings and leave lots of empty space.

Click here for a couple of examples of written instructions - one is for staff working alone, the other is for preventing cuts while using box cutters.

Keep your written instructions up to date. Few things are more frustrating than trying to follow instructions for equipment that has been replaced and no longer exists. Review written instructions at least once a year and update them when things change. Improve the way things get done by asking for feedback from the people who do the work.

Safety Policy: Make a Commitment

Make a Commitment

Putting Intentions Into Words

Managing safety begins with the expression of a shared vision for the safety of everyone who enters our stores.

Canadian Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulations require employers to put their safety goals and intentions in writing.  This written document explains and communicates everyone's safety roles — including those of the employer, the supervisors and staff.

Sometimes this is referred to as a “Safety Policy” or a “Safety Commitment”. No matter what you call it, it's all about making a strong commitment and putting it in writing so that everyone’s responsibilities are clear, you can hold each other accountable and, best of all, you can celebrate success.

Click here for tips on writing your own Safety Commitment in discussion with supervisors and staff.

Your written commitment will set the tone for safety management in your business. Make sure it says what you want it to say and make sure it is (and stays) meaningful. Review it at least once a year to gauge your progress and keep it relevant. 

Good Safety: First Things First

Good Safety Management

First Things First

Did you know that the safety record of your business is connected to its success?

WorkSafeBC statistics, for example, show that small businesses with the lowest injury rates tend to stay in business longer than those with higher injury rates. In other words, the more likely it is for workers to get hurt, the sooner a business is likely to shut down. This implies that safety can and should be managed like any other aspect of business — that good safety management is an integral part of good business management.

At WCSA, we believe good safety management is only achieved when it becomes a normal part of our daily routines as owners, managers and staff — when it becomes habitual. In order to create stores where safety is the norm for everyone, good habits have to start at the top. In other words, safety needs to be managed at all levels so that it simply becomes the way we do our business.

The Keys to Good Safety Management Are:

Safety success is just like business success. It requires the input and participation of everyone at work. Some parts of Canada have special rules about how workers, managers, supervisors and employers work together formally to make safety habitual. Check here to find out if you need to have an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Committee.

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