Safetip #147: Develop, Document & Evaluate Safe Work Practices
What Are Safe Work Practices?
Safe work practices protect workers from hazards and risks of injury or illness. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety, some elements of safe work practices include:
- Developing and implementing safe work procedures or standard operating procedures.
- Training and education of employees about the operating procedures, as well as other necessary workplace training.
- Establishing and maintaining good housekeeping programs.
- Keeping equipment well-maintained.
- Preparing and training for emergency response for incidents such as spills, fire or employee injury.
Develop and document safe work practices, and make sure that workers are aware of them. But more importantly, evaluate them and verify if more effective control methods are available.
Safe Work Practices in the Context of the Hierarchy of Controls
Safe work practices are certainly useful, but it’s important to view them in the context of the hierarchy of controls when evaluating them. The hierarchy of controls can be used to determine the most feasible and effective controls. Control methods at the top (elimination, substitution, and engineering controls) are more effective and protective than those at the bottom, but they can also be potentially costlier and more difficult to implement:
Safe work practices are a form of administrative controls. They’re not the most effective type of controls, but they may be more feasible that elimination, substitution or engineering controls. In many cases, even if well-designed engineering controls are present and performing adequately, safe work practices should still be present.
Evaluate the effectiveness of safe work practices periodically. As part of the evaluation, determine whether engineering controls can be used instead, or if safe work practices remain the most feasible method. You should go ahead and implement engineering controls if it becomes feasible due to increased budgets, or if safe work practices are no longer enough to produce an adequate level of worker protection.
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