Often the real reason companies write procedures is for compliance, to meet certain statutory or regulatory requirements. To put it plainly, they have to have procedures “to cover their arse.” While it may not be the purest of motives (it’s a bit like not murdering someone only because you don’t want to go to hell) we are human nonetheless and, if you agree with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we need to feel safe before we can satisfy higher needs.
But why do regulatory authorities demand that you have procedures?
Having procedures is really just an early step in a risk management strategy. Having procedures is an initial step in controlling risks associated with health and safety, with managing quality and in minimising waste – be it material, time or money. No matter whether your focus is health and safety or productivity or profit, having good procedures is crucial in managing the business.
If there is a serious incident on your site, one of the first things external investigators will ask is: “Where are your procedures?” It’s not as though having procedures will automatically prevent incidents. It’s just that they need to ascertain how the task is performed so that that they can then investigate whether it was performed as intended. But if you don’t have procedures, you’re immediately stumped. Then, regardless of whether a written procedure would have prevented the incident, you cannot prove that you have taken reasonable actions to protect your staff.
When you need procedures for compliance, make sure you get good value out of them. Ensure they are accurate, up-to-date and user-friendly and you will achieve additional benefits associated with safety, with managing quality and minimising waste, as well as keeping regularity authorities off your back.