Safety Moment #14: Operating Procedures — Defining Terms

Operating Procedures — defining terms

The material provided here is extracted from the ebook 52 Process Safety Moments. We also provide a PowerPoint presentation on this topic that can be used in your safety meetings and in process safety management discussions.


Safety Moment #18: Incident Investigation: Words, Words, Words stressed the importance of using the correct terminology when discussing process safety management issues. This concern applies not just to Incident Investigation but also to Operating Procedures. Phrases such as ‘Operating Manual’ and ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ tend to mean different things to different people and organizations. This can lead to confusion and wasted effort.

There is no single, agreed-upon standard for operating procedure nomenclature. However, this Safety Moment provides a Table of suggested definitions for terms such as Operating Manual, Operating Procedures, Task Instruction, Troubleshooting Procedures, and Checklists.

For example, the following suggested definition is provided for the widely used term ‘Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)’.

A standard operating procedure (SOP) describes a generic set of instructions for tasks such as starting pumps, lighting burners or filling vessels. The SOPs can be used as the foundation of specific procedures. For example, the SOP, ‘How to start a centrifugal pump’ can be used as the basis for the specific procedure, ‘How to start centrifugal pump, P‑100’.

The use of SOPs can greatly improve the quality of the final, facility-specific procedures, and can drastically reduce the development time for the complete manual. Quality is improved because the generic SOP can be very carefully reviewed by all the pertinent disciplines (operations, process, electrical, maintenance) to ensure that it represents the very best understanding of how to perform this particular task. Development time for equipment-specific procedures is reduced because the persons writing them only have to edit a ‘go-by’; they do not have to start from scratch.

Terms covered are:

  • Operating Manual
  • Operating Procedures
  • Task Instruction
  • Trouble-Shooting Procedures
  • Emergency Procedures
  • Maintenance Procedures
  • Checklists
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Job Safe Practices (JSPs)

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You are welcome to use this Safety Moment in your workplace. But there are restrictions — please read Use of Safety Moments.

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