Writing a Safe System of Work (SSOW)

Let’s first consider where a Safe System of Work(SSOW) rests within the risk control hierarchy, with eliminating the hazard being the most effective:

Sometimes when producing a risk assessment, the complexity of the task requires control measures to be clearly identified to ensure a safer outcome. A safe system of work is a step-by-step method of carrying out a task that minimises the risks of injury or ill-health. It must list the hazards, confirm the safe working procedure and be part of a robust training programme. In addition, it is good practice to reference the SSOW in the arrangements of relevant Health & Safety Procedures.

There are various SSOW layouts, this is one example and its requirements:

SITE: SSOW Reference Number:
TASK/OPERATION:Page:
Relevant Risk Assessment:Other relevant documents:
SSOW Developed By:Date:
SSOW Reviewed By:Date:
SSOW Approved By:Date:

Clearly identify the task it covers. Give the SSOW a reference number so that it can be clearly identified on the relevant risk assessment and provide a cross reference to that risk assessment. Also make reference to any other relevant documents, including Health & Safety Procedures. Record who developed, reviewed and approved the SSOW and on what date.

Sequence of Job Steps
(What to do in the right order)
Potential Hazards/Risks of Each StepSafe System of Work
(How to do it)
Personal Protective Equipment

Column 1: Sequence of job steps (what to do in the right order). List the steps for completing the task in a clear and logical sequence. Most importantly involve the person doing the task in the development of the SSOW, this promotes ownership and increases the likelihood of it being followed.

Column 2: Potential hazards/risks of each step. Detail the hazards which have been identified through the risk assessment process. Pictograms can be used to raise awareness of the hazards.

Column 3: Safe System of Work (how to do it). When writing instructions look to begin them with words such as ‘must’ and ‘always’ and describe things to do rather than things not to do. The use of words such as ‘avoid’ and ‘should’ make instructions sound more like advice and can result in ambiguity and indecision. It is good practice to provide each instruction with a visual image, they are worth a thousand words and keep the person being trained fully engaged.

Column 4: Personal Protective Equipment. Where identified within the SSOW confirm the type of PPE to be used, again this can be supported with pictograms.

I was given the opportunity to ask questions about the content of this document. I fully understand the requirements of this safe system of work and will perform the task in accordance with its requirements.

Trainee Name:Signature:Date:

I confirm that the above-named person has been instructed in performing this safe system of work and fully understands the need to comply with its requirements when performing the task.

Trainer Name:Signature:Date:

Training:

  • Provide the SSOW to all employees who are to carry out the task prior to them undertaking the work.
  • Obtain confirmation that the person receiving SSOW training has been given the opportunity to ask questions about the content, they fully understand its requirements and will perform the task in accordance with its requirements.
  • Keep a record of the SSOW training on the individuals training file and refresh on a planned basis.

Monitor & Review:

  • Once implemented monitor the adherence of the SSOW to ensure compliance and review regularly to check that it remains effective for the needs of the task.
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