SAFed Health and Safety Passport Scheme
Module 4 — Safe Systems of Work
forms one of a series of modules on various health and safety subjects that
comprise the examinable material considered necessary for the award of the
SAFed Health and Safety Passport.
When you have
studied this module you should have acquired sufficient knowledge to be able
to answer the questions detailed at the end of the module. Upon satisfactory completion of all modules, you will be
eligible to undertake the final assessment for the award of the SAFed Health
and Safety Passport.
Health and Safety Passport is issued to Engineer Surveyors by the Health and
Safety Manager of their employing company upon satisfactory completion of the
Safety Passport final assessment.
The award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport provides evidence that the holder of the Passport has the appropriate knowledge and awareness in health and safety matters considered necessary for an Engineer Surveyor to undertake the duties for which they are authorised by their employing company.
The passport is valid for a maximum of three years.
Having studied the module you should have an
relevant legislation associated with safe systems of work.
of safe systems of work.
safe system of work is required.
developing and monitoring a safe system of work.
The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 places
general duties on all employers within Section 2, which states:
‘It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees.’
employer has to provide and maintain plant and systems of work that are, so
far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.’
The Workplace (Health. Safety and Welfare)
Regulations 1992 provide an important backup to the safe systems of work
requirement in the Act by laying down regulations regarding such items as
ventilation, traffic routes and room dimensions.
A safe system of work is a formal procedure that
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.
Engineer Surveyors visit many different clients and
there is a primary responsibility on the part of the client to ensure that
their premises are properly maintained and safe. But it must be remembered that to a large extent the Engineer
Surveyor is his own safety officer and he should take all reasonable steps to
ensure he is working to a safe system. The
Engineer Surveyor should adhere to his employer’s safe systems of work.
He should also establish on arrival at a site, or prior to the visit if
possible, if the client has safe systems of work or permit-to-work systems in
force. He should then strictly comply with the requirements of these
systems and any other site safety rules.
should use their discretion as to whether safety precautions and equipment
provided are sufficient. If in
doubt they should seek advice from their Health and Safety Manager.
Safe Systems of Work
Components of Safe Systems of Work
A safe system of work constitutes the bringing
together of materials, people, plant and equipment in such a way as to effect
work activities in safety. Systems
of work must have a logical, well thought-out approach when compared with
methods of working, which often merely evolve under their own steam.
In a system of work there is a logical progression from hazard
identification and prediction so that such hazards are eliminated or
Safe systems at work are of paramount importance in accident prevention
and should fully identify and document all the hazards, safety precautions and
safe working practices associated with all activities performed by employees.
The arrangement section of the safety policy should spell out a
company’s attitude to safe working systems and must include details of the
hazard analysis procedures to be undertaken prior to plant inspection and
maintenance. The analysis should
he capable of identifying any unsafe work methods.
There must also be a system of monitoring safety performance and for
publishing information about such performance.
Job safety training should also be mentioned in the
policy document and is an integral part of the safe working system; there must
be a basic commitment to provide high standards of safety training for all
operatives, new entrants, line manager, the safety practitioner and all safety
When is a Safe System Required?
Many hazards are clearly recognisable and can he
overcome by physically separating people from them e.g. by using guarding on
machinery. A safe system of work
is needed when hazards cannot he physically eliminated and some element of
risk remains. These principles
should be applied to routine work as well as to more special cases such as:
Cleaning and maintenance operations.
Making changes to work layouts, materials used
or working methods.
Employees working away from base or working
Breakdowns or emergencies.
Controlling activities of contractors.
Loading, unloading and movement of vehicles.
Designing a Safe System of Work
There are FIVE steps required to produce a safe
system of work:
Assess the task.
Step 1 Assessing the Task
Assess all aspects of the task and the risk it
presents. Hazards to health as
well as to safety should he considered taking into account:
What is used e.g. the plant and substances,
potential failures of machinery, toxic hazards, electrical hazards, design
limits, risk of inadvertently operating automatic controls.
Who does what e.g. delegation, training, foreseeable
human errors, short cuts, ability to cope in an emergency.
Where the task is carried out e.g. hazards in the
workplace, problems caused by weather conditions or lighting, hazards from
adjacent premises or contractors etc.
How the task is done e.g. the procedures, potential
failures in work methods, lack of foresight of infrequent events.
Step 2 Identifying the Hazards
On the completion of assessing the task the
hazards and risks associated with the task should be identified.
Where possible eliminate the hazards and reduce the risks before
relying upon a safe system of work.
Step 3 Defining Safe Methods
The safe system of work may he defined orally,
by a simple written procedure or in exceptional cases by a formal permit to
Consider the preparation and authorisation needed at the start of the job.
Ensure accurate planning of job sequences.
Specify safe working methods.
Include means of access and escape if relevant.
Consider the tasks of dismantling, disposal
etc., at the end of the job.
Involve the people who will be doing the work.
Their practical knowledge of problems can help avoid unusual risks and
prevent false assumptions being made at this stage.
In those special cases where a permit to work
system is necessary there should he a properly documented procedure.
It is important that everyone understands which jobs require a formal
permit to work. Permits to work should:
Define the work to be done.
State how the work area is to be made safe.
Identify any remaining hazards and the
precautions to be taken.
Describe checks to be carried out before normal
work can be resumed.
Name the person responsible for controlling the
Jobs likely to require a permit to work system
Working in confined spaces.
Hot work on plant containing flammable dusts,
liquids, gases or their residues.
Cutting into pipe-work containing hazardous
Work on live electrical equipment.
Step 4 Implementing the System
The safe system of work must he communicated
properly, understood by employees and applied correct1y.
Employees should be aware of the commitment to reduce accidents by
using safe systems of work.
Training should be provided when necessary and it
should be part of a safe system of work to stop work when faced with an
unexpected problem until a safe solution can be found.
Step 5 Monitoring the System
Monitoring means periodically checking that:
The system is still workable.
The procedures laid down in the system of work
are being carried out and are effective.
Any changes in circumstances, which necessitate
the need for alterations to the system of work are taken into account.
Developing a Practical System
In developing a practical safe working system it is necessary to ensure
that adequate provision is made for the following:
Safe design of plant and equipment.
Safe installation of plant and machinery.
Safe maintenance of plant, equipment and
Safe use of plant, equipment and tools through
proper training and supervision.
Documented, planned maintenance procedures.
Safe working environment (ventilation, heat and
Adequate and competent supervision.
Trained and competent employees.
Proper enforcement of the safety policy and
Adequate personal protection for vulnerable
Documented procedures for the issue of
Dissemination of health and safety information
to all the employees.
Regular reviews (not less than once a year) of
all job safety instructions and methods of work to ensure that;
there is continued compliance with legislation.
plant modifications are taken into account.
substituted materials are taken into account.
new work methods are incorporated.
systems still work safely in practice.
advances in new technology are exploited.
safety precautions are adjusted to take into account accident experience.
The law requires employers to provide safe and
healthy systems of work for their
fatal accidents at work have been caused, and the health of many workers
damaged, because safe systems of work were not provided or were ignored.
Not all jobs are hazardous, but if they are an
employer must have systems of work which reduce
risks to a minimum.
Some risks are very clear and are overcome, for
instance, by guarding. But there
may be other risks, which are not so
obvious e.g. from maintenance, cleaning, breakdowns, chemical releases or
Look at every job, think about what is used, who does what, when, where and how it is done.
Look for any hazards in the workplace, assess the
risks and if possible remove the hazards.
If a hazard
cannot be removed a safe system of work will be required.
When faced with an unusual or unexpected hazard while carrying out an examination, stop
work until a safe solution to the problem can be found.
Plan each job carefully from the start, decide who is
in charge and how people know when to
start the job, what to do and in
Inform employees verbally how the job must he done.
Where the job is complex or the risks are high instructions should be
in writing. In some cases a
written permit-to-work will be required.
In many cases it is impossible or extremely
unrealistic to eliminate a risk totally. Even
when the risk has been reduced, we are left with no alternative but to train
someone with the skill to recognise the risks involved and how to minimise them.
A procedural way of taking every precaution possible is to institute a
It is important to note that a permit-to-work system
should not he mistaken for a safe system of work. Rather, a safe system of work may require a permit-to-work
system to be adopted as part of its overall systematic control of risk.
The safe system of work should in itself he considered as part of the
quality control procedures of an organisation.
A permit-to-work system is a systematic means of
Whenever maintenance or other temporary work of a
potentially hazardous nature is to be carried out a permit-to-work system is
Most accidents can he attributed in one way or
another to human error. In order to
achieve a high decree of safety it is necessary to eliminate human error as much
as possible by using a system that requires formal action.
The permit must be in the possession of the person in
charge of the operation before work can commence.
Ideally the control of permit to work systems
throughout the company should he the overall responsibility of one person who
possess the ability, knowledge and authority to ensure full compliance.
It is important that Engineer Surveyors working under
a ‘Permit to Work’ system identify the area of work covered by the permit to
ensure that they are operating within the time shown and do not carry out any
other work other than that specified in the permit.
If further work is necessary the surveyor must stop work at the
conclusion of the existing permit and await the issue of a fresh permit.
End of module
and next steps
By reaching this point you will have finished studying this particular
module. You should now have
sufficient knowledge to answer the questions contained at the end of the module.
the questions should be forwarded to your Health and Safety Manager.
To answer Module 4 Questions Click here