What is a ‘Safe System of Work,’ and How to Write One? A Comprehensive Guide

Unlock the secrets to crafting a foolproof safe system of work (SSOW). Learn essential tips and techniques for safety in the workplace.

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Ossian Muscad

Did you know that many accidents occur due to lack of or failure in systems of work? A ‘Safe System of Work’ is a formal procedure drawn up by an employer to ensure that tasks are completed safely and consistently by all employees. It is a critical aspect of managing health and safety in the workplace, designed to minimize the risk of injury or harm to workers.

This comprehensive guide aims to uncover the process of creating a Safe System of Work, outlining the key components and steps involved in developing an effective strategy that protects employees and ensures compliance with relevant health and safety regulations. By implementing a well-considered Safe System of Work, businesses can foster a safety culture that not only complies with the law but also promotes a healthier, more productive working environment.


What is a Safe System of Work?

A Safe System of Work (SSoW) is a formal procedure that results from systematically examining a task to identify all hazards. It defines safe methods to ensure that hazards are eliminated or risks are minimized. Essentially, an SSoW is a step-by-step process that guides workers on how to carry out their duties safely. This procedure is not only pivotal for ensuring the safety and health of employees but also plays a crucial role in protecting the environment and the overall well-being of the public.

The development of an SSoW involves identifying the tasks that need to be done, the hazards associated with these tasks, and the risks arising from these hazards. Once identified, measures must then be put in place to control or eliminate the risks. An SSoW may include instructions on the use of protective equipment, emergency procedures, and the proper use of machinery or chemicals. It is a dynamic tool that should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect any changes in the work environment or processes.


Why is an SSoW Important?

An SSoW is not just a document but a vital practice that underpins the safety culture within an organization. It is essential because it provides a clear, step-by-step guide for performing tasks safely, thereby significantly reducing the likelihood of accidents in the workplace. It ensures that an organization complies with health and safety legislation, minimizing legal risk and protecting both employees and employers from the consequences of unsafe practices. The following are notable reasons why a well-structured SSoW is crucial:

  1. It’s the law: The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) not only requires employers to provide systems of work that are safe and without health risks but also mandates that these systems be constantly monitored and updated in response to new safety regulations and workplace technologies. This ensures that safety measures keep pace with changes in the work environment and industry standards.
  2. To reduce the number of accidents and injuries in the workplace: Beyond just lowering accident rates, implementing safe systems of work (SSoWs) significantly contributes to minimizing the severity of accidents when they do occur. By having a robust system in place, risks are systematically identified, assessed, and mitigated, which directly leads to a healthier work environment and reduces the potential for costly legal liabilities and workers’ compensation claims.
  3. To improve productivity: A safe workplace is foundational to fostering a productive work environment. When employees operate in an environment where their safety is a clear priority, it boosts their confidence and focus, allowing for greater work engagement and output. Effective SSoWs not only enhance the physical safety of employees but also contribute to their psychological well-being, which in turn can lead to improved job satisfaction and retention rates.
  4. To protect your business reputation: The reputational impact of workplace accidents extends beyond immediate financial losses. It can also affect investor confidence, and the ability to attract top talent. Companies known for their commitment to safety are more likely to be seen as employers of choice and can differentiate themselves in competitive markets. A strong safety record supported by effective SSoWs can thus be a key component of a company’s brand identity and value proposition.
  5. To support a safety culture: Cultivating a safety culture through well-developed SSoWs goes beyond compliance and risk management. It involves creating an environment where safety becomes a shared responsibility, influencing not only how work is performed but also how employees interact with each other and engage with their work on a daily basis. By embedding safety into the organizational culture, businesses can foster a more resilient and adaptive workforce, prepared to respond proactively to challenges and changes in their work environment.


How to Write a Safe System of Work?

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of SSoW let’s look at how to write one. Keep in mind that each SSoW guideline differs per industry and organizational needs. That means you will need to tailor it according to the specific tasks, hazards, and risks in your workplace. However, here are some general steps you can follow when creating a Safe System of Work:

Step 1: Analyze All Tasks

Before drafting a Safe System of Work (SSoW), it is imperative to have a comprehensive understanding of the tasks that will be executed in the workplace. This requires a thorough analysis of all work activities to ensure the SSoW is accurate and effective. To achieve this, several steps can be taken:

  1. Observe the work as it’s being carried out. Spend time on the work floor, watching how tasks are performed. This direct observation will provide valuable insights into the workflow, potential hazards, and the interaction between various elements of the work environment.
  2. Engage with employees by asking them about their daily tasks. Employees are invaluable resources as they have hands-on experience with the work processes and can offer detailed information about their tasks, any difficulties they face, and suggestions for improvement. This can also help identify any discrepancies between how work is supposed to be done and how it is actually done.
  3. Review company documentation thoroughly. This includes job descriptions, procedures, work instructions, and safety protocols. Documentation review helps in understanding the official procedures and identifying any gaps between written procedures and actual practice.


By combining observations, employee feedback, and a review of company documents, you can gain a holistic view of the work activities. This will form a solid foundation for creating a Safe System of Work that is both comprehensive and applicable, enhancing safety and efficiency in the workplace.

Step 2: Define Hazards

Once you have analyzed all tasks, you need to identify any potential hazards associated with each task. Doing so will help in creating measures to mitigate or eliminate these hazards. Hazards could potentially cause damages or injuries to something or someone:

  • Unchecked equipment: Different jobs require the use of various types of equipment. When equipment is not regularly maintained or thoroughly inspected, it becomes a significant hazard. Employees using defective tools or machinery are at risk of injuries or accidents, emphasizing the importance of routine checks and maintenance.
  • Inadequate lighting: Poor lighting conditions in the workplace can lead to a host of problems. Insufficient light can cause accidents by making it difficult to see potential hazards. It also contributes to physical discomfort, leading to fatigue, headaches, eye strain, and reduced productivity, highlighting the need for well-lit workspaces.
  • Slips, trips, and falls: Slippery or cluttered floors are among the most common causes of workplace accidents. Wet floors, loose cables, or unnecessary clutter can easily lead to slips, trips, and falls, potentially causing serious injuries such as fractures, concussions, and even long-term mobility issues. Regular cleaning and organization are crucial to prevent these accidents.
  • Weather: Weather conditions present an uncontrollable risk that can significantly impact employee safety. From causing slips and falls on icy surfaces to heat exhaustion during extreme temperatures, weather-related hazards are diverse. They can also lead to illnesses like flu and colds, affecting overall productivity. Employers should provide appropriate gear and advice on dealing with various weather conditions.
  • Chemicals: Many workplaces, from offices with cleaning supplies to factories using industrial chemicals, handle various chemicals. Improper handling, storage, or usage of these substances can lead to severe health issues, including skin irritations, respiratory problems, and, in extreme cases, fatalities. Proper training on chemical safety and the use of protective equipment is essential.
  • Electricity sources: Electricity is indispensable in modern workplaces but comes with its own set of risks. Unsafe handling or faulty electrical equipment can lead to fires, explosions, or electrocution. Ensuring electrical safety through regular inspections, safe handling practices, and employee training is crucial to prevent accidents.
  • Heights: Working at heights significantly increases the risk of serious injury or death from falls. Whether it’s construction work on scaffolding or accessing high shelves in a warehouse, safety measures must be in place. These include using appropriate fall protection equipment, training employees on safe practices, and ensuring equipment is secure and stable.

Step 3: Identify Safe Precautions

After identifying the hazards, you must take precautions to remove or reduce their risks. These are called safe work practices. Safe work practices are also procedures that ensure employees can work safely. At the same time, they also ensure that the work is performed efficiently. Here are some examples of safe work practices:

  • Wearing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE): PPE serves as a critical barrier between employees and potential workplace hazards. It includes clothing or equipment designed specifically to protect against injury or illness. Common examples of PPE include gloves, safety glasses, and hard hats. Employees need to wear the right PPE tailored to the specific risks of their job.
  • Using the correct tools and equipment: To ensure tasks are performed safely and efficiently, employees must use tools and equipment that are specifically designed for the job at hand and are in proper working condition. This includes everything from hand tools like screwdrivers and hammers to larger machinery. Using the incorrect tool or a damaged piece of equipment can lead to accidents, injuries, and even fatalities.
  • Carrying out regular maintenance: Regular maintenance of tools, equipment, and machinery is vital to prevent malfunctions that could lead to workplace accidents. This includes routine inspections, necessary repairs, and replacements when equipment shows signs of wear and tear. A well-maintained piece of equipment is less likely to fail and cause injury. Maintenance schedules should be strictly followed, and any issues should be reported and addressed promptly.
  • Working in pairs: Certain tasks entail a higher level of risk and can be too hazardous to perform alone. In these situations, working in pairs is advised so that one employee can assist or call for help if the other is injured or in danger. This buddy system not only increases safety but also fosters a team environment where employees look out for one another’s well-being.
  • Taking breaks: Regular breaks are crucial for preventing fatigue, which can lead to decreased concentration and mistakes. Breaks allow employees to rest and recharge, reducing the risk of accidents caused by tiredness. Employers should encourage a culture where taking scheduled breaks is the norm, not the exception. This includes short breaks throughout the day as well as adequate time off between shifts.

Step 4: Communicate With the Company

Once you have identified the hazards and put in place safe work practices, you need to communicate this information to the company. This can also be done by writing an SSoW document or creating a presentation. By communicating the information effectively, you ensure that everyone in the company is aware of the potential risks and how to prevent them. It also allows for open discussion and feedback on potential hazards that may have been missed. The SSoW document should include:

  • A list of all tasks that will be carried out in the workplace.
  • A list of all hazards associated with each task.
  • A list of all safe work practices that have been put in place to remove or reduce the risks.
  • The name and contact details of the person responsible for monitoring the SSoW.
  • Any additional procedures or protocols that must be followed.
  • A statement of compliance with all health and safety regulations.
  • Any emergency procedures or protocols that must be followed in case of an accident.
  • An acknowledgment form for employees to sign, indicating they have read and understood the SSoW document. 

Step 5: Monitoring the SSoW

Once you have implemented the SSoW, you need to monitor it to ensure its effectiveness. A common mistake is creating an SSoW document and then forgetting about it. Regular monitoring allows for any necessary updates or changes to be identified and implemented. This can be done by:

  • Conducting regular inspections of tools, equipment, and machinery to ensure they are in good working condition.
  • Observing employees as they carry out their tasks to ensure they are following safe work practices.
  • Encouraging open communication where employees can report any potential hazards or safety concerns.
  • Staying up-to-date with the latest health and safety regulations and making necessary adjustments to the SSoW.
  • Review any incidents or accidents that occur and identify if the SSoW needs to be revised.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: How often should the Safe System of Work (SSoW) document be reviewed and updated?

The SSoW document should be reviewed and updated regularly, at least annually, or whenever there are significant changes in workplace processes, tools, or equipment. Additionally, it should be reassessed after any incident or accident to identify any necessary improvements.

Q2: Who is responsible for creating and maintaining the SSoW?

The responsibility typically falls on the employer, with input from health and safety officers and employees. For larger organizations, a dedicated safety department may take the lead. However, all employees have a role in maintaining the SSoW by following established guidelines and reporting any issues.

Q3: Can the SSoW vary between different sectors or industries?

Yes, the SSoW will vary significantly across sectors due to the different hazards and risks inherent to each type of work environment. For example, the construction industry will have very different safety protocols compared to an office setting.

Q4: What should be done if an employee fails to follow the SSoW?

It’s crucial to address non-compliance immediately. This may involve restraining the employee on the importance of the SSoW, understanding the reasons for non-compliance, and taking disciplinary action if necessary. Ensuring employee understanding and commitment is key to effective safety management.

Q5: How can employee involvement in the SSoW process be encouraged?

Employees can be involved through regular safety meetings, suggestion schemes, and by participating in safety audits and inspections. Empowering employees to report hazards and contribute to safety discussions ensures their engagement and commitment to workplace safety.

Q6: What is the relationship between the SSoW and risk assessments?

Risk assessments are the foundation of the SSoW. They identify potential hazards in the workplace and evaluate the risks associated with them. The SSoW then outlines the measures taken to mitigate these risks, ensuring the safety and health of employees. Thus, both processes are integrally linked and essential for effective safety management.


Streamline Your Safe Systems of Work with DATAMYTE

DATAMYTE is a quality management platform with low-code capabilities. Our Digital Clipboard, in particular, is a low-code workflow automation software that features a workflow, checklist, and smart form builder. This tool lets you create a safe work workflow system that can be easily customized to your specific industry and workplace needs. With DATAMYTE, you can automate and streamline processes, ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations, reducing risk, and promoting a safer working environment for employees.

DATAMYTE also lets you conduct layered process audits (LPA), a high-frequency evaluation of critical process steps, focusing on areas with the highest failure risk or non-compliance. Conducting LPA with DATAMYTE lets you effectively identify and correct potential defects before they become major quality issues.

With DATAMYTE, you have an all-in-one solution for quality, safety, and compliance management. Our platform is user-friendly and accessible through any device, making it easy for employees to access and contribute to safety management. Try DATAMYTE today and see how our low-code solutions can help you create a safer workplace. Book a demo now to learn more.



Implementing a Safe System of Work (SSoW) is fundamental to ensuring a secure and healthy workplace. By following the steps outlined in this guide, from conducting thorough risk assessments to engaging employees in the process, organizations can significantly mitigate workplace hazards.

Regular review and update of the SSoW, alongside a commitment to safety from all levels of the organization, are key to maintaining a culture of safety. A well-implemented SSoW not only protects employees but also enhances productivity and operational efficiency. Committing to a systematic approach to workplace safety is an investment in your organization’s most valuable asset — its people.



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