What Makes a Good SOP

We can look back in history of incident investigation of recent events and they have been focused on safe working practices, fatigue management and equipment failures, but often, the focus is not on Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s). The following questions should asked with respect to SOPs:

Was the procedure clear enough to understand?

  1. Has site staff be trained on how to use the procedure?
  2. Has a documented approach been applied to the procedures so that an approval step has been applied?
  3. If you picked up the procedure, could you follow it?
  4. If there are multiple systems / equipment the same how do you know you are isolating / closing the right one?

The purpose of Standard Operating Procedures are to give clear concise guidance on how someone effectively and safely performs a series of tasks whilst to protecting the environment, plant, and the equipment. The typical issues we see with SOPs in industry include:

  • Wordy and open to interpretation.
  • Hard to navigate
  • Lacking specifics
  • No pictures
  • Hazards not clearly articulated

Here are some tips on developing a good SOP that has a low chance of being a contributor of human error:

  1. Ensure change in any SOP has been approved through a management of change process.
  2. Document management and control is adhered to with reviewing of document.
  3. Highlighting key critical stages in the procedure that require sign off to continue.
  4. Annual refresher training on a percentage of site procedures.
  5. The layout include, purpose, reference, precautions / Hazards, special tool/ equipment, pre-requisites.
  6. Each step of the procedure must include:
    • Sequential step or sub step
    • Task / operation you are to achieve
    • Tag number, id number of the item/ system you are to perform on
    • Step status on completion of that step e.g. Close, Open
    • Picture to guide the wording explanation
    • Completed stages / Sign off

Interested in seeing are templated SOP and including all the above? Download our template

Download SOP template