A safe system of work is a formal procedure which results from systematic examination of a task in order to identify all the hazards. It deﬁnes safe methods to ensure that hazards are eliminated or risks minimised.
As an employer, you are responsible for ensuring you have safe systems of work (SSW) in place. These are also known as safe operating procedures or method statements. These are detailed instructions to your employees, which set out how they should carry out tasks safely, particularly when it comes to more hazardous work processes, such as working in confined spaces. This starts with the process of risk assessment, during which, you must identify the significant hazards within your workplace, from which you develop your control measures. These should either remove or reduce the risks to your employees and anyone else who might be affected. This then results in a safe system of work, and the aim should be to standardise your working practices so that no one gets injured or is made ill.
Will a Safe System of Work be Enough?
Once you’ve implemented your SSW, you will need to implement training for workers in the correct procedures. You will then be expected to monitor the effectiveness of the systems to see how well staff comply with them and also review and update your SSW in the event of any incidents, changes in legislation, etc. Larger organisations can now expect much higher fines for breaches of health and safety involving fatal or serious incidents. Fines must be large enough to send out a message to directors and owners of organisations so that they are in no doubt that the courts will impose severe financial penalties for health and safety breaches in the future. HSE inspectors are targeting workplaces according to criteria based on previous history of accidents, complaints made, the work activities being undertaken, type of equipment in use or as part of a general campaign, e.g. asbestos.
Don’t get caught out!