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What procedures do you really need?

Sometimes it is tricky to work out what procedures are really needed. Some companies go so overboard that the procedures become laughable. For example, do you need a procedure on how to use a wheelbarrow? Well, what are you carrying in the wheelbarrow, and what are the expected skills of the person using the wheelbarrow? If you employ an experienced gardener, and it is not used to transport anything hazardous, it is reasonable to expect that people can use it safely and without too much instruction. Given general manual handling training and common sense, a procedure for using a wheelbarrow would not be necessary. Do you need a procedure on how to make a cup of coffee? If it is instant coffee, probably not. If you have a fan-dangled coffee machine, where you use steam to manually aerate the milk, or you are employing people with special needs, then maybe you do.

Questions to ask:

  • Is a new recruit likely to need to refer to a procedure? If so, you will need one. If people are recruited with a certain education or skills level (such as a tradesperson), then you probably don’t need to cover how to operate a common drill, but if you have specialized equipment you would need a procedure to cover it
  • How much risk is associated with using the equipment? If there is a serious risk of injury or damage, then you will need a procedure to ensure all risks are identified and controlled. Whilst you could imagine incidents that occur with using a wheelbarrow, it would be reasonable to assume most people could use one reasonably safely, without specialized instruction. (You may, however, consider general training on manual handling, which most reasonably intelligent people could apply to using a wheelbarrow.)

Beware of having procedures for simplistic tasks. If you assume people are idiots, you can be sure they’ll live up to your expectations. On the other hand, put yourself in the shoes of a new recruit when identifying procedures, not an experienced person. Don’t assume they know things that are not common to everyday life, unless they have specific training in your field.