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How to Write Effective Workplace Safety Protocols

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on August 27, 2020 at 12:26 PM

When your employees perform a complex process with a high degree of risk, how do you keep them safe? How do you ensure that they know what to do to perform a task safely?

Workplace safety protocols are an underappreciated but essential part of your safety program. That’s because they help guide your workers through complex tasks that could easily go awry, ensuring that they always know what to do.

Of course, writing safety protocols to ensure safe behavior is an art in and of itself. Here’s a quick look at how to write protocols effectively.

What are Workplace Safety Protocols?

Workplace safety protocols, often called safety procedures, are step-by-step safety plans guiding employees through the safe performance of a given workplace procedure. As such, the protocol refers to both the process itself and the internal document put together by an organization.

All safety protocols will include a list of hazards associated with a given work task. The EHS team will then use a risk assessment matrix to assign a risk factor to each hazard. From there, the EHS team will break the process into steps to ensure each step is handled in a way that avoids or mitigates hazards associated with a given step.

When Do You Need Safety Protocols?

Technically, you could create a safety protocol for every process under the sun. However, most tasks aren’t worth the effort, not when your safety team has a laundry list of other tasks to deal with.

As such, it’s best to be strategic in your approach. As a rule, you need a safety protocol when a process:

  • Is lengthy
  • Is complicated
  • Is routine but requires strict adherence to the rules
  • Demands consistency
  • Has significant consequences if performed incorrectly
  • Involves documentation
  • Has been changed recently

In a company, there are many tasks with informal procedures. Many tasks are fine with these informal procedures. However, you should have a written procedure if a task meets the criteria above, which suggests that it’s a higher-risk process.

How to Write Protocols

Of course, writing a protocol is more of an art than it seems. The protocol has to address what the reader needs to know, not just what they want to know.

The best place to start is a strong understanding of existing safety laws. Chances are, if a procedure carries enough risk to warrant a written safety protocol, there is likely regulation out there that governs how a process should be performed.

From there, you can evaluate your business for existing risks. Know your risk matrix before you begin your risk assessment process – this will make it easier to ensure you focus on the highest-risk procedures.

From there, focus on making your language clear and direct. Be precise. If employees have to guess, there’s a chance they’ll perform a procedure wrong.

Simplifying Safety, One Protocol at a Time

Workplace safety protocols seem simple, but they achieve a difficult task – helping your workers navigate complicated work procedures safely. For that reason, they warrant extra care and attention from your EHS team.

If you’re looking to refine your safety procedures and protocol language, make sure to check out our blog for more tips, like this post on how to develop effective safety guidelines.

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, Risk Management, Safety Management, Safety Culture, Human Resources

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