Good work instructions prevent employees from potentially causing errors or getting into unsafe situations while on the job. This is important because 90 percent of work accidents occur because of human error. Over an entire year, this leads to high costs. Billions of euros are lost annually through injuries or unnecessary costs. In this article, we cover how to draft work instructions.
Do you want to know more about work instructions yourself? Then read on.
SOPs, task instructions, or work instruction: the difference.
Work instructions, work tools, user manuals, or standard operating procedures (SOPs), you have all kinds of names, depending on the situation and terminology used within an organization.
It’s not about the word you attach to it, but also its purpose. The purpose of a work instruction is to explain how a certain task should be performed. A good example is starting a car: Make sure the gearshift is in neutral, press the clutch, turn the key in the ignition, and so on.
It is important to note that work instruction is often part of a larger story. You can think of these as general process documentation levels. Where each level consists of a number of work instructions.
Why work instructions are important
Work instructions are important because they build and secure knowledge within an organization. Work instructions establish ways in which things are done or executed.
Often if you pass work instructions orally to your employees, chances are there will be misinterpretations. And therefore: mistakes! When it comes to large groups of people, that chance is only greater. Also, by recording work instructions you secure the knowledge of your company and you do not lose this knowledge when an employee leaves the organization.
- Work instructions secure the knowledge of an organization
- Work instructions reduce the risk of human error
- Work instructions provide clarity and structure
- Save time in the training of new employees
Also Read: dailyproject.org
What does a good work instruction look like?
Work instructions obviously need to look good, but how do you get them to look good? They must make it clear how employees should perform certain tasks. So also as little room as possible for own interpretation. After all, you don’t want employees to be confused by vague work instructions. This means that your instructions should be as short and simple as possible. Here are some basic rules to help you along:
- Who is your target group?
Write your work instructions in a way that makes them easy to understand for any employee performing the task (target audience). Use the active voice to help your reader, which refers to the subject, verb, noun phrase structure.
- It should be easy to understand
Good writing is like a windowpane. You look straight through it and immediately understand the meaning. Every employee should be able to understand your work instructions. Avoid words with multiple syllables, complex sentences, jargon, acronyms, too many technical terms (without explaining them), and unnecessary words.
- Write in imperative
- Remove the cap.
- Turn the cap a quarter turn to the right until it locks in place.
- Move the green lever away from you until it can go no further.
Avoid descriptions like, “To open the cap, you must first remove the cap. Then please turn the valve a quarter turn until you feel resistance. Then you can move the green lever away from you until it does not go any further.” This doesn’t read well but is also unclear which increases the chance of making a mistake. Make sure it is easy to understand.
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