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The Purpose of a Procedure

I frequently see people make a comment regarding procedures along the lines of "monkey see, monkey do", "they take the thought out of the job" or "they treat us like idiots".

I want to take this opportunity to say that is not how I see or use procedures. If you get a procedure authored by myself, I do not expect you to follow it blindly and would be very annoyed if I found out that you did.

To me the purpose of the procedure is to ensure that a job has been thought about at least twice:

  • Once when writing the procedure and
  • Once when carrying out the procedure.

It is a method of checking to help ensure the job is done in the correct way. If the person carrying out the job disagrees with the procedure, they should stop and discuss the job, ideally with the author or possibly a supervisor. The discussion should clarify which method is best and lead to improving the procedure, either correcting the procedure to reflect the operator's method or clarifying the reason the author wrote the procedure the way they did.

If the person carrying out the job doesn't think about the job, the check is missed.

A procedure is just another safety tool. Not thinking about the job is just as bad as failing to use a harness or other PPE.

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