Blowing the Dust Off: 4 Tips to Update Your Safety Manuals


For most organizations, safety manuals exist as foundational documents. They provide detailed, necessary guidance for employees and supervisors trying to navigate their duties.

Manuals need to stay relevant to continue playing a critical role for employees. Letting details and codes become outdated leads to confusion in the workplace and accidents on the job. This means an organization’s safety manual needs to be opened, reviewed, and updated annually.

Many employers will shy away from an annual safety manual update remembering how daunting it was to write the first draft. However, annual safety manual updates are a necessary best practice in service to employees, to clients, and to continued business success.

Don’t let fear stop such a critical process — use these four tips to kick-start the safety manual update review.

  • Treat the Safety Manual as a Living Document

A safety manual is never truly complete — think of it as a living document. This acts as a way to account for the real-world changes happening outside of the workplace, such as OSHA updates and new safety technologies.

These real-world changes will influence how work is done and needs to be addressed. For instance, forty years ago, many safety manuals just started including details on electronic communications and computer threats. Now these policies and procedures are commonplace.

Looking at major changes in the world informs which areas of the safety manual need to be updated or added. Employers will have a natural jumping-off point by approaching updates from this angle. This also opens the floor to address policies that may be outdated, or procedures that are no longer applicable. 

  • Be Open to Employee Feedback and Help

Remember that employees are the primary audience for an organization’s safety manual. The contents of the manual have a major impact on almost every employees’ day-to-day activities. As such, utilize the employees for the insights they can provide.

Be open to their feedback, because employees know the policies and procedures they follow — and how the work actually gets done. Pointing out the discrepancies shows employers where manual updates need to be made.

At the same time, there is no reason for only one employee to make the rewrites and edits for safety manual updates. Turn to more senior employees and supervisors within the departments covered by the policies being updated. They can be a tremendous help and can inform the language used for updates.

They also may be able to provide written portions themselves. Tapping the people most familiar with the material is a smart use of available resources.

  • Writing for Clarity 

This process is also a time to explore how the safety manual is saying what it is trying to say. The actual language used to communicate safety procedures and policies has a major impact on how well those reading the manual understand what is being said.

What is being written should be true, compliant, and clear. Write in plain language as much as possible, providing definitions for terms or acronyms that may be unfamiliar, and write concisely. If further clarification is needed, an FAQ section may be helpful. FAQs tend to be more conversational and dive deeper into specific subjects while keeping the tone relatable and easily digestible. 

  • Consult with Safety Professionals

As mentioned, undertaking safety manual updates does not need to be done alone. Trying to keep up with every regulatory or cultural change while also writing as clearly as possible is a difficult task. Bring in a safety professional — such as the team at Optimum Safety Management — to conduct a third-party audit of the material.

Safety professionals provide insights overlooked by internal teams too close to the material and provide guidance on the latest industry standards to include in policies and practices. Step back when the material is overwhelming and bring in trusted safety experts to alleviate the stress. Experts provide peace-of-mind that no omissions will be overlooked during the update process, and that the material will be communicated in a way that everyone can understand.

Optimum Safety Management provides the information and services to help companies develop safety leaders and improve overall safety performance. For more information on how Optimum Safety Management can assist with your businesses’ safety needs, contact an expert today, or reach out via phone at 630-759-9908.Z


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