Safe Systems of Work (SSOW) | EcoOnline US
Health & Safety Glossary

Safe Systems of Work (SSOW)


What are Safe Systems of Work (SSOW)?

Workplace safety is at the top of every employer's list of priorities, and for a good reason. In a safe and healthy work environment, employees can perform at their best without fear of injury or harm. 

One crucial aspect of workplace safety is implementing safe systems of work (SSOW). Safe systems of work are designed to protect employees from risks and hazards associated with their job responsibilities.

They are a structured and comprehensive approach to identifying, assessing, and controlling workplace hazards to prevent accidents and injuries. 

Implementing a safe system of work involves understanding the hazards associated with specific tasks, determining the most effective control measures, and setting up procedures and guidelines to ensure that those measures are consistently followed.

How Important are Safe Systems of Work (SSOW)?

Implementing safe systems of work is crucial for several reasons. It is a legal requirement under occupational health and safety regulations in many countries. 

Employers have a duty of care to ensure that their workforce is protected from harm. Failure to meet these obligations can result in significant fines, legal action, or even imprisonment.

Ensuring workplace safety is essential for employee morale and productivity. Employees who feel safe and supported in their work environment are more likely to remain engaged and productive. 

On the contrary, an employee who fears injury or believes that their safety is not a priority may be less likely to perform at their best or even consider leaving the organization.

Thirdly, a safe work environment leads to reduced costs associated with workplace accidents and incidents. 

Accidents can cost an organization in terms of compensation claims, lost productivity, and damage to equipment or property.

Key Elements of Safe Systems of Work

Developing and implementing safe systems of work involves several key elements:

Risk Assessment

This involves identifying potential hazards associated with specific tasks and determining the level of risk they present. A thorough risk assessment should consider the likelihood of an accident or incident occurring and the severity of the consequences.

Hazard Control

Once risks have been identified and assessed, appropriate control measures must be put in place to reduce or eliminate the hazard. This may involve using safer equipment or materials, modifying processes, or implementing personal protective equipment (PPE).

Safe Work Procedures: Documenting and communicating clear, concise, and easy-to-understand procedures for performing specific tasks safely is critical. These procedures should outline the steps involved in the task, the hazards associated with each step, and the methods used to control those hazards.

Training and Education

Ensuring that all employees are adequately trained and educated about the safe systems of work is crucial. This includes providing information on hazard identification, risk assessment, and control measures, as well as how to follow safe work procedures.

Monitoring and Review 

Once implemented, the safe system of work must be continually monitored and reviewed to ensure its effectiveness. This includes regular inspections, audits, and incident investigation to identify areas for improvement and make necessary changes.

Benefits of Establishing Safe Systems of Work

For EHS teams, implementing SSOW is a critical aspect of managing occupational health and safety. Some key benefits of SSOW include:

  • Regulatory compliance: Following SSOW helps organizations meet legal requirements and adhere to industry-specific regulations, avoiding the risk of fines and legal issues.
  • Injury prevention: Proper SSOW implementation can dramatically reduce the risks associated with workplace hazards, limiting the likelihood of accidents and injuries.
  • Enhanced productivity: A safer workplace promotes overall well-being and higher employee morale, leading to increased productivity and reduced absenteeism.
  • Cost savings: By preventing accidents and ensuring compliance, organizations can avoid the financial ramifications associated with workplace incidents.

Fostering a Robust Safety Culture in the Workplace

A successful SSOW program relies upon commitment from both management and employees, as well as ongoing communication and collaboration. 

EHS teams should strive to create a culture of safety by:

  1. Encouraging open communication: Foster an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing safety concerns and reporting hazards without fear of retribution.
  2. Recognizing and rewarding safe behavior: Reinforce positive actions and behaviors by acknowledging and rewarding employees who consistently follow SSOW.
  3. Leading by example: Ensure that management and supervisors are well-versed in SSOW and demonstrate a commitment to safety.

EcoOnline Can Help Organizations Develop Safe Systems of Work

EcoOnline’s online workplace safety solution makes it easy for organizations to engage employees and get feedback and input on different hazards in the workplace. 

It helps companies foster behavioral change and better understand different risks. This information can be critical for EHS teams as they start developing safe systems of work.