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A Safe System of Work – What it is, why it matters and how you can develop one.

In today’s world, negligence is the cause of several tragedies. In the workplace, negligence often plays a direct role in the loss of life. This has not only an immeasurable impact on families but also on the companies that play a part in the demise.  

Take for example, a court case commented on by the HSE that took place in the West Hampshire Magistrates’ Court on the 8th August 2023. A fine was issued to a railway company amounting to £1.2million in line with Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The railway company was charged with failing to ensure a safe system of work when a 53-year-old employee died while cleaning out the inside of a butt-welding machine. Failure to implement safety protocols resulted in the passing of a husband, father and grandfather. Such a loss will continue to have far-reaching consequences on the affected family. 

Understanding what’s included in a safe system of work is one of the first steps to making sure that serious accidents such as the one described above never happen. What is a safe system of work and how can you create one? Keep reading to find out.

 

What is a safe system of work? 

A safe system of work (SSoW) can be defined as a process used to reduce risk in the workplace. Each company needs a SSoW specifically designed for the tasks that employees will be performing on a daily basis. 

What steps can you take to create and implement a safe system of work in your organisation? 

  • Determine what tasks need to be carried out on a daily basis 

Managers need to work together with employees to identify what tasks need to be carried out on a daily basis. A decision should be made as to what tasks are unnecessary and whether they should be eliminated completely or performed less frequently. 

  • Identify the risks and hazards associated with tasks 

Now that you know exactly what tasks need to be handled by employees, analyse what kinds of risks could be involved. It’s important to understand that the way an employee works, what they work with and the equipment they work on could all pose a threat to their health and safety. The situation calls for outside thinking, creating potential life threatening scenarios and involves thinking about things like what could happen if you experienced bad weather or failed to carry out regular checkups on machinery. 

  • Decide on the right safety precautions

Once again, managers can rely on employees’ input to help them decide on which safety precautions need to be established in the workplace. Those responsible for the health and safety of employees need to understand that it may not be possible to completely remove a hazard or risk through safety precautions. Regardless of that fact, by putting steps in place to prevent accidents you can do much to reduce the risk. 

  • Write up a SSoW draft and review the procedures

A SSoW draft consists of putting the necessary procedures in writing and reviewing it with employees. A SSoW draft will include:

  • A detailed list of steps required to complete each task
  • The risks and hazards associated with the task
  • Safety procedures to follow if a risk arises
  • Emergency procedures and emergency contact details

 

  • Implement your SSoW and monitor it

There’s more than one way to implement a safe system of work. Employees can be given a formal document highlighting safety procedures or they can use more informal ways of reaching out to employees. Training sessions can also be provided. At SML we’re able to create a tailored training program for you and your employees based on your company’s specific health and safety needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need to. 

Once employees start following these safety guidelines, it will give you a good idea of how effective the safety procedures are and whether they need to be improved over time. Your company SSoW should be monitored regularly to see if any changes need to be made. 

 

References: 

https://uk.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/what-is-safe-system-of-work

https://press.hse.gov.uk/2023/08/08/1-2million-fine-for-network-rail-after-grandad-died-doing-maintenance-work/?utm_source=hse.gov.uk&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=press-channels-push&utm_term=worker-crushed&utm_content=news-page

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