The safety instructions describe how to work in a manner that prevents injuries. Practice shows that well-thought-out safety instructions save lives and provide more effective instruction and training.
Safety instructions that fulfil their purpose are:
- visual, illustrated;
- easy to read and remember;
- created in cooperation with the enterprise’s employees.
When drawing up safety instructions, it shall be taken into account that they should cover the work to be carried out in the enterprise and the work equipment used, whereas the requirements set out in the instructions for use by the work equipment manufacturer shall be taken into account when preparing the safety instructions for work equipment.
Managers, the working environment representative and employees could be involved in preparing good safety instructions. Together, they can go over the everyday work in the enterprise and use of work equipment from start-up to maintenance. Based on the duties, all hazards (physical, chemical, biological, psychosocial, physiological) and related preventive measures regarding damage to health could be described. This ensures the efficiency of the instructions to a maximum extent.
Addressing the safety requirements of several different items of work equipment in one document of safety instructions is only recommended if an employee uses all these items of equipment. Otherwise, the safety instructions shall distinguish between which requirements apply to the work of the employee. If duties differ to a great extent, preparation of separate safety instructions could be considered.
A well-designed safety manual makes legislation, standards and company-specific safety requirements easy to understand for the employees. Regardless of how the safety instructions are obtained and prepared, the employer is responsible for the content of the safety instructions.
An employee shall read the written safety instructions before commencing work and can read them later as well, if desired. The employer shall organise the preparation and updating of safety instructions in accordance with experience, internal control and risk analysis of the working environment, and research materials on occupational accidents, risks of accident and incidents. Instruction shall be repeated if the safety instructions are supplemented.
Safety instructions should be easily accessible to employees. Brief information on the most important safety requirements related to a piece of work equipment can also be placed next to the area where the work equipment is used. For example, if the work equipment is a display screen, the poster could provide physical exercises to perform during breaks.
Preparation of safety instructions
The safety instructions are prepared by the employer (often either a working environment specialist or the manager of the work section covered by the instructions), taking into account the instructions for use of the work equipment.
The safety instructions should provide:
- possible dangerous situations and instructions for dealing with them
- important measures to ensure one’s own and others’ safety (incl. use of personal protective equipment)
- hazards related to the surrounding working environment (e.g. lifting in the vicinity).
The enterprise’s risk assessment, experiences of employees and dangerous situations that have occurred, occupational accidents and occupational diseases are taken into account when preparing the safety instructions.
It is important to consider the reader of the instructions – the information provided in the instructions shall be easy for the reader to understand. It is recommended to use:
- articulated text (separate paragraphs, subheadings);
- colours and photos (for example, add a picture of the device’s emergency stop button);
- simple language (commonly used words, short sentences);
- practical recommendations (it shall be possible to actually apply what is described in the instructions).
Before using the instructions, they should be given to an employee who comes in contact with the work on a daily basis, as he or she can check the relevance of the instructions and clarity the instructions and further specify them, if needed. The safety instructions should be as short as possible and make the legislation and safety requirements of the enterprise easy for the employees to understand by containing only important text (not, for example, extracts from acts that are irrelevant to the specific work situation).
The instructions should not contain too much general information, for example, the list of legislation related to the work could be a part of the introductory or general safety instructions, not all safety instructions. If the instructions are based on the safety instructions of a similar device or the work of another enterprise, they shall be adapted to the specific enterprise by removing all unnecessary information and ensuring that the specifics of your enterprise are included in the instructions.
As the safety instructions are changed over time (for example, the instructions should be revised after an occupational accident occurs or new safety-related observations are made in the course of work), the instructions should be marked with a version or date. This ensures that the employees read the updated version of the instructions. If the safety instructions are supplemented, instructions shall be repeated to employees.
The procedure for maintaining the safety instructions shall be determined by the employer. Employees shall be enabled to read the instructions at any time. In enterprises, safety instructions are kept at the place of work, in the resting room, with the shift manager or the secretary – it is important to ensure that the latest version of the instructions is always available for the employees. Often, the working environment specialist is responsible for replacing copies of the safety instructions at places of work.
Reminder for preparing safety instructions
- Involve managers, the working environment representative and employees in preparing the safety instructions.
- Think about and discuss the company’s daily work and the use of work equipment.
- Write down the hazards and prevention measures based on the work performed and place of work.
- Formulate the safety instructions in a manner which makes them easy to read, understand and remember. Add pictures and drawings that give a new employee plenty of valuable information.
- Check that the safety instructions correspond to the working environment and the work equipment used.