A company's standard operating procedures (SOPs) are not only useful when compliance audits roll around every three years; if used correctly they can actually minimise risk and add to business efficiency.
SOPs help run a business more effectively because they are the company's best practice model. Assuming SOPs are followed consistently, compliance and good risk management are sure to follow. However, when consistency is not an abiding factor when it comes to following SOPs, risk is increased.
The most common reasons cited for SOPs not being used by employees are: the correct SOPs cannot be located, employees not knowing a SOP exists, SOPs are inaccurate and not up-to-date, or SOPs are not presented in the context of the job so employees cannot see relevance to their role.
Accessing the correct information
One of the most significant factors in workplace incidents is employees’ inability to access up-to-date procedures and safety information. Most companies manage and present SOPsas stand-alone documents that have been written for a specific purpose and maintained individually, often by different employees across various departments. The number of documented procedures can total hundreds or thousands across a company, which can lead to confusion and duplication if the right SOP cannot be found where the employee expects it to be. This can increase the level of risk within the company.
SOPsexplain how employees should respond to incidents and changes within the workplace. However, if an employee can’t easily find and/or access SOPs, a bank of documents has little value. Consistent, accurate and current documentation can be established with an effective management system so all employees can access and find the right documents that are relevant to their roles in a timely fashion.
The value of modelling SOPs
Modelling can help align procedures to employee roles, company systems and equipment, making the task of finding the correct SOP much easier. A company adopting a modelling approach commits to documenting the relationship that exists between the safety regulation, company policy, company processes and the relevant people for each SOP. This can be done by structuring the SOPs using information mapping because it makes them more readable and fit-for-purpose.
The operational modelof the business includes all processes, procedures, systems and compliance obligations and this acts as a single source of truth. Modelling business operations allows you to clarify all employee responsibilities, the relationships between each role and link compliance obligations to processes and systems.Generating SOPs from this model ensures there is no duplication across different departments or for different purposes. Additionally, modelling SOPs would help to understand the workplace impact when regulations change, including what needs to be documented regarding those changes.
Taking risk seriously
Companies must practice what they preach when it comes to risk management because if they are seen to consider safety to be only a compliance issue, employees will take on that attitude and it will affect the culture.
SOPs can help manage risk as well as drive productivity, manage costs and ensure compliance. However, for SOPs to be an effective business tool, they must be easily accessible for all employees from one source, updated regularly and be consistent across the whole company. A modelling approach, coupled with a central information source, makes SOPs more useable and relevant for all employees and decreases risk.
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