Safe systems of work (SSoWs) are formal procedures based on a systematic examination of work in order to identify the hazards.
In other words, it’s is a defined method of how to undertake a work activity safely. As an outsourced provider of health and safety, this is something that Wurkplace works with clients on regularly.
Employers Have A Legal Obligation To Have Adequate SSoWs In Place
The relevant health and safety legislation that having SSoWs in place applies to, is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires employers to ensure, as far as is reasonable practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees while at work.
This includes providing and maintaining systems of work that are, as far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.
Employers must ensure that SSoWs are undertaken for work activities that pose significant risk, in the same way employers have a responsibility to ensure that risk assessments have been carried out on all work activities.
Safe systems of work become particularly important where all possible control measures have been introduced into the work activity, and significant residual risk still remains.
Safe systems of work also become particularly important when existing control measures that are usually present, have to be removed for work to go ahead and be completed. An example of this is having to undertake an inspection or maintenance on work equipment, that usually has a guard present. A formal safe systems of work will be required for work activities where significant risk still remains.
Some of these tasks include:
- Maintenance of electrical systems and equipment including IT equipment, e.g. where
machinery is partly controlled by firmware programs
- Working in confined spaces
- Window cleaning
- Lone working
- Construction work
- Maintenance of assembly-plant machinery
- Working with hazardous substances
- Hot work (welding, cutting and burning off)
- Working in flammable or explosive atmospheres
- Working at height.
Things to consider when preparing and undertaking SSoWs for specific work activities.
Firstly, ensure the individuals that will be undertaking the safe systems of work are fit to do so. This includes ensuring they have the sufficient knowledge, training and experience in both safety and in the work activity being assessed.
The individual(s) undertaking the safe systems of work should work with the person who undertakes the specific work activity, to allow for them to gain further knowledge on the task, as well as get a better understanding of the hazards and risk involved.
Further information can then also be given to the individual undertaking the safe system of work, where needed.
When undertaking a safe system of work, it is important to identify and characterise all significant and foreseeable hazards (based on valid risk assessments). Analyse and evaluate those hazards, then determine the appropriate options for controlling the risk.
It is important to consider People, Equipment, Materials, Environment, Technical/engineering, procedural, and behavioural controls.
It is important to ensure that your safe systems of work are integrated within the existing framework of a well-defined health and safety management system, which implements the organisation and arrangements set out in the health and safety policy.
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You should also incorporate the safe systems of work into written safe operating procedures.
Following the completion of the safe systems of work, you should communicate them to staff, supported by sufficient instruction and formal training.
Competency tests where relevant can also be carried out. Supervision and monitoring should be arranged regarding the safe system of work, to ensure compliance.
The completed safe systems of work should be reviewed on a regular basis and/or if there are ever changes within the work activity.
To summarise, when developing and completing safe systems of work, you can think of the process in these 6 steps:
- Select the job or task to be analysed.
- Record the steps or stages of that job or task.
- Consider the hazards associated with each step or stage and evaluate the risks.
- Develop a safe working method.
- Implement a safe working method.
- Monitor the safe system of work and working method to ensure that they continue to be
implemented and remain effective.
If you need support with drafting or implementing SSoWs within your organisations then please contact Wurkplace on 0330 400 5490 to support you or visit our home page to fill out a free consultation form.