Creating Written Instructions

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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.

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