Safety operating procedures in the workplace

By Chris Wagstaff
08 Jul 2024

Keeping your employees safe while at work should be the top priority for every employer, implementing safety protocols could save your employees lives, especially if they are carrying out high risk procedures.

This article will cover the safety operating procedures in the workplace, this will help your workers carry out their everyday procedures in the correct way without risking serious incidents.

If you need immediate support creating safe operating procedures or putting together risk assessments, get in touch with one of our experts here 0800 141 3905.

a folder with the accurate operating procedures of the workplace safety, including risk assessment and safe operating procedures

What is a safe operating procedure?

A safe operating procedure or standard operating procedure (SOP) as it is also known, is a set of formally detailed instructions, commonly used in manufacturing and logistics.

These ensure that the work carried out is carried out safely and follows the correct standards.

A standard operating procedure looks at the risks highlighted in your risk assessment and is used to create a safe operating procedure.

Formal safe operating procedures?

To put it simply, a formal safe operating procedure is a recorded document that centrally manages the way that your employees work, and is able to give oversight to some of the businesses decisions.

Your formal standard operating procedures should be a step by step guide or instructions that has been created to help your employees carry out their everyday tasks safely.

after an employer has created a risk assessment they reinforce safety protocols with a set of safety protocols.


Why do businesses need standard operating procedures?

A standard operating procedure ensures that employers and business owners are compliant with their employees' safety. They also ensure that they've taken the risks in the workplace into consideration to ensure they remain safe while carrying out routine procedures.

These documents could also play a crucial part in ensuring that the processes are followed correctly to keep everyone on the premises safe.

Mitigation methods

Anyone who's affected by the operating procedure, this could include anyone who carries out the procedure or oversees it,should be given in depth training and provided with guidance on what the procedure requirements are to help keep themselves and those around them safe.

If you were to have an accident or incident in your workplace, your operating procedure document will be the go to piece of evidence to prove that you did everything you could to mitigate the risks.

When are employers required to have formal standard operating procedures?

It's up to employers and business owners to decide when a standard operating procedure is required.

The risks in your workplace should be identified through your company's risk assessments, the risks identified can be split into two different types, personal risks and business risks.

A business risk is when an act of human error results in lost business, for example machine downtime, damaged reputation, and accreditations. This type of risk should normally be identified and addressed through your quality assurance system, where the standard operating procedure (SOP) hasn't identified a personal risk.

A personal risk is when one of your employees or workers are harmed when carrying out a business activity, this can also include when an act of human error has occurred without the correct controls.

Are employers required to have a SSOW by law?

SSOW stands for Safe System of Work and is the arrangement that includes the standard operating procedures among other processes and documentation. The point of these is to mitigate or outright remove all the hazards and risks that could affect your employees and anyone visiting the premises.

A safe system of work is a standardized practice when it comes to managing risks that are a direct result of behavior or the work process.

a person hazard identification wearing personal protective equipment using a sop template and receiving quality output

Writing a standard operating procedure

When your putting your standard operating procedure together you should consider the whole working process.

When you're investigating the work procedures you should look at all the hazards that present themselves or could be present if a procedure was carried out incorrectly.

You should also include your employees in this process, as they will be able to provide you with more information on the process and identify potential hazards they've come across.

Identify hazards

When you're looking at a particular process you should take into consideration all the activities that happen in your workplace.

In this step you should identify whether a standard operating procedure is needed, and what the risk clarification is.

Once you've identified the hazard and what the estimated risk is, if they don't have any controls or if the control measure has failed.

Identify the safety precautions

When you've identified your risks and hazards, you should look into the existing controls you have in place. You should then estimate the risk with that control and see if they are still effective.

If you noted that the control is still effective you can continue to use the procedure. If it isn't effective you should re-evaluate the control and explore if there's other methods that would be more effective.


Whenever you are putting together a health and safety initiative it's imperative that you communicate the changes to your employees.

You should start the communication of these when you start to put you standard operation process together. This is so you can both gather information from your employees and to share the changes that have been made as a result.

Not limited to this but you should ensure that your standard operating procedure is easy to read and understand by all your employees and stakeholders.

Implementation of safety procedures

You should communicate the implementation of your standard operating procedures. This could be through training, included in handbooks, and e-learning, you should ensure that everyone has access to the training material.


Employees will need the appropriate level of supervision while they are undertaking tasks that present higher risks.

Supervisors should ensure that all the procedures are carried out correctly, and review the procedure if a part of it has been overlooked.

Review regularly

Your standard operating procedures should be reviewed regularly to ensure that your control measures are still effective. They should also be reviewed if an incident happens that is outside the bands of the procedure.

emergency procedures for hazardous equipment and workplace safety being monitored with the hazard identification document, risk assessment.

Get in touch for expert advice

We know that every employer wants to keep their employees and visitors safe while at work, and putting together risk assessments and safe operating procedures can be a daunting task. Our team of qualified experts are on hand to provide you with the support you need. Get in touch today on 0800 141 3905. 

About the Author

Chris is the Director of Health and Safety at Croner. Chris is also CMIOSH accredited, an IOSH Mentor and HSE People Champion and has over 20 years working in Health & Safety.