in Safe 6

Safe Work Practices, Back to Basics…… Really?

A recent comment about Safe 6 suggested that it represented “getting back to basics.”  Certainly, that’s it on the surface.  However, I contend that we’ve never done the “basics” very well.    My evidence is this.  Define “safe work practices.”

We all know what a safe work practice is, but have you ever read an actual definition? OSHA doesn’t define it.  But, they do think it’s a very important part of workplace health and safety.  “Safe work practices” are mentioned five times in the non-mandatory OSHA Health and Safety Program Management Guidelines.


You’ll be hard pressed to find a complete definition of safe work practice.  Here are a couple definitions I found, so I’ll save you the trouble of searching yourself.  Are they complete?

Definition 1 – From <>

 “Safe work practices are procedures adopted for carrying out specific tasks that ensures workers’ exposure to hazardous situations, substances, and physical agents is controlled in a safe manner.”

Definition 2 – From <>

“Safe work practices are generally written methods outlining how to perform a task with minimum risk to people, equipment, materials, environment, and processes. “

Nothing earth-shattering there.  Pretty much how you’d describe a safe work practice…. what it takes to get the job done safely.  Okay, write your own safe work practice for changing a light bulb using the above definitions.  So, does either definition help?  Sure, I know one of you yelled at me and said, conduct a JHA or JSA and use that. Good answer, I couldn’t agree more.

However, a JSA/JHA is a fairly formal process that is completed by a team trained to complete the analysis.  It is essential for complicated, poorly characterized tasks.  Is it absolutely necessary for the more routine scheduled tasks?  I don’t believe so.  Anyway, do you have a JHA team on stand-by whenever you need them.  I didn’t think so.

So where does that leave us? I contend that without a clear, structured definition of a safe work practice the situation will result in unclear, unstructured safe work practices and training….. or none at all!!  Oh, wait a minute. What about Safe 6?


©2014 The Safely Working Project & P.D. Shafer III

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“Safely Working” is a trademark of Trailmarker Ltd.