Procedures as a productivity and safety tool jean yves fiset eng ph d jyfiset@shumac qc ca
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Procedures as a productivity and safety tool Jean-Yves Fiset, Eng., Ph. D. Outline. Why bother? What is in a procedure What procedures can do for you Issues and tips A case study: abnormal situation management Resources. Why Bother?.

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Procedures as a productivity and safety toolJean-Yves Fiset, Eng., Ph.


Why bother?

What is in a procedure

What procedures can do for you

Issues and tips

A case study: abnormal situation management


Why Bother?

Human Performance Analysis of Industrial Radiography Radiation Exposure Events

In Preliminary Findings, CSB Investigators Report Bayer CropScience Explosion Was Caused by Runaway Chemical Reaction; Cite Significant Lapses in Process Safety, Outdated Operating Procedures'%2c%2f%2f%2f'%2c%2f%2f'%2c%2f'%2c'%2c&print=y

What is in a Procedure

  • Usually include

  • Pre- or entry conditions

  • Steps

  • Actions, decisions….

  • Specification of order of execution for none, some or all of the steps

  • Warnings and cautions

  • Post-conditions

  • « Configuration management »


Operating manuals

« Cardex »



« A set of instructions to assist specified users in carrying out specified task in a specified context of use to achieve specified results »

What procedures can do for you

  • For the individual 

    • Support decision-making in stressful situations

    • Prevent or mitigate memory lapses

    • Document what was done

  • For the organization

    • Train new staff

    • Refresh experienced staff on infrequent tasks

    • Support continuity planning

    • Manage events

Frequent Issues

Using them

Producing them

Complying with them



  • Strategy: define

    • Purpose of the procedures

      • Help the organization achieve its purpose OR satisfy some external body OR both OR…

    • Compliance policy (including how to handle deviations)

      • E.g., Procedures shall be used as written and no deviation shall be tolerated… OR…. Procedures as guides… OR…several classes…

    • How compliance will be assessed

    • How the procedures will be maintained




Common mistake

  • Writing good proceduresistough but getseasierwith a bit of practice

    • Experts at the job are not necessarilygreatprocedurewriters


  • Tactics

    • Specify for whomyouwrite (or review) procedures and the purpose of the procedure

    • Differentiatebetween « conceptual » and « procedural » information AND organizebothadequately

    • The processis: analyze the needs and constraints, produce a first version, assess, and correct => repeat as required => thendeploy and train

    • Writer’s guide

      • Process for authoring, reviewing and authorizing

      • Authorizedwords

      • Fonts, styles, headings

      • Syntax

      • Principles and rules

      • Templates for pages and for procedures


Sizesshouldbecalculated and measured on paper – avoidrelying on « points »

Adapted from:,

20 years old 60 years old 75 years old

  • Ensure the textislegible

    • For text, avoidcolorlike the plague

    • Typically, youshouldspecify font size and « type » (e.g., Times Roman). Actual size depends on:

      • Distance of use

      • Environment of use

      • Characteristics of users (e.g., age…)

      • To besafe, maywant to specifylargersizes


  • Writingindividualsteps

    • Keepindividualsteps simple

      • In general: short words in short sentences work best

      • One instruction by step

        • Break down complexstepsintosimpler, successive steps

    • Avoidnegative in conditionalslike a major plague

      • Tryit:

        • IF pressure in Tank 23 is NOT greaterthan 145 KPa, THEN Observe

    • Use right format

      • steps for instructions, warnings for warnings, and notes for notes!

        • Warnings before a step, not after….

    • Check boxes or room for initials if eachstepis to beconfirmed


  • Use the right vocabulary

    • Always the same word for the same thing

      • Few words => fewer mistakes

      • Words familiar to the staff AND correct for the task

      • Short words => easier and faster to read

      • Standardized rules for abreviations

        • Use same abreviations throughout


  • Rules for numbers

    • Usually, numeral for physical measures and for 11 items or more

    • Use separations = 277 733 rather than 2877733

    • Same form

    • Only the precision required and available

    • Include units of measure, where applicable

    • Avoid calculations like the plague

      • If absolutely required, provide a calculation aid and enforce its use

    • Use ranges => 17 – 23 C rather than 20 ± 3 C



Level of Detail

For the



  • Level of detail

    • Making the procedureoverlydetaileddoes not help any

    • Revisionsoften tend to increase the thickness of the procedurewhiledecreasingitsusefulness…


Common mistake

Sequence not forced: unorderedlist

Sequenceforced: orderedlist







  • Do……

  • Do….

  • Do….

  • Use good syntax

    • Active form rather than passive

    • Avoid inversions

      • Longer to read

      • Higher error rate

    • In a step, force sequences only when absolutely necessary



  • Putting it all together

    • Review and critique

    • Identify improvements

      • Beware of limits of knowledge on application


  • Some unanswered questions

    • Pictures? No pictures?

    • Prose or flowcharts?

    • Enough, too much, not enough information?

      • Solution: combine training and procedure content, and take into account user knowledge before specifying the level of details

    • Standards

      • Some process / attribute standards exist for some types of user documentation


Common mystery

  • A few cheap tricks…

    • The value of pre-testing…

      • People willoftenspend more time explainingwhytheydon’tthinkitisnecessary to validate, walkdown or otherwise test the procedurethanitwouldtake to actually do it…

      • Testing or validating a proceduresolely by talking about itaround a table is a weakmethod

    • You will not getit right the first time

      • If you do, sendyour résumé…

    • Proceduresneed to bemaintained

    • A desktop reviewbased on the rules and principlespresentedherewillreveal lots

      • Compliancewithwriter’s guide or good practices

      • Eliminatingwordswithoutloosing the meaning

      • Procedural vs conceptualknowledge

      • ...

Case Study

  • Abnormal Situation Management (ASM)

Case Study

  • ASM

Case Study

  • ASM: a procedure-driven approach


  • Wieringa, D., Moore, C., Barnes, V., PROCEDURE WRITING: PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES, 1998. 2nd ed. Columbus, OH: Battelle Press. [ISBN 1-57477-052-7. 243 pages, including index

  • For the ASM case study: White Paper - Human Performance and Abnormal Situation Management

    • Paper copies are available

    • Can be downloaded from

      • or



  • Procedures are more than « words on paper »

  • They are not a necessary evil…

    • they will help us to …. prevent a situation… respond to a situation… train staff… document our work…

  • One of the most cost-effective way to improve operations and safety

  • And, best of all, they can be developed and used by mere mortals

Procedures in an Organization

Adapted from: TP 13739 E Introduction to Safety Management Systems, Transport Canada

  • The 4 Ps of Safety Management

    • Management Philosophy

    • Specifying how safety will be achieved through People

    • What management wants people to do (Procedures) to execute the policy

    • Practice - What really happens on the job

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