Setting the standard?

17 September 2019

In this issue, James Marston, learning and development manager at the British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc), asks: are Standard Operating Procedures a waste of everybody’s time?

I would say a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a waste of time if it is never consulted, updated, embedded or accessible to operators. A SOP or Method Statement that’s inaccurate or out of date can create confusion and ambiguity within operations.

Should an organisation find itself under scrutiny by enforcement agencies, they may need to rely on them as proof. They provide evidence that workforces are trained, have clear guidance on company procedures, and are an accessible document to reference should they feel unsure or need reminding on how to complete tasks.

SOPs should be the culmination of policy, specification, risk assessment, training, and specific needs of the environment to be cleaned and maintained. They should be the bedrock of knowledge and procedures for operators to work consistently and to the highest standard possible. 

If produced in this way, SOPs become invaluable to the organisation. They are living documents which can be amended, updated and supportive of improving performance. Staff can feed back their views, and formal amendments can be made and communicated effectively to all staff.

Producing SOPs for the first time can be challenging and time-consuming. It’s important not to be tempted by the cut and paste approach. It involves several stakeholders and teams across the organisation, including health & safety, to ensure they reflect the service provided and accurate guidance to operators. 

BICSc has embraced this approach producing SOPs for its Cleaning Professional Skill Suite (CPSS) as the best practice route to carry out BICSc training. One for each of the 41 tasks therein. Split into easy to read sections the documents cover the scope of the task, health & safety compliance and considerations, equipment necessary and a detailed procedure which guides the reader step by step through the task. BICSc has also included background knowledge for the task reminding readers of key principles and the knowledge essential for quality cleaning, and above all working safely.

Once in place, the benefits are there for the taking. SOPs support all levels of the business from procurement of equipment and materials to inspection, quality control and assurance.

SOPS are a reflection of safe working, good practice and investment in the workforce. They can become the backbone of a successful business. I believe organisations that embrace SOPs will be the most successful because they can adapt and evolve quickly, having the means to communicate and make changes when necessary with the assurance that the workforce will comply.