Published 5 Sep 2023
What is a Standard Operating Procedure?
A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a standardized process that outlines a set of detailed instructions to help workers perform complex tasks properly and safely. The main objective of standard operating procedures is to develop an effective quality system and comply with industry-specific regulations and standards. Failure to follow SOPs can cause significant errors in production and operations, increasing unwanted work variations.
In this article
- What is an SOP Template?
- The Purpose of a Standard Operating Procedure Template
- Benefits of Implementing a Standard Operating Procedure
- How to Write A Standard Operating Procedure Effectively
- What to Include in Your Standard Operating Procedure Template?
- FAQs About SOP Template
- What is SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) and how can I use it for creating effective SOPs?
- Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Templates
What is an SOP Template?
An SOP template is a document used to create an organization’s standard operating procedures and avoid common mistakes such as making them too long that no one will read them. SOP templates have three common formats which are step-by-step guides, hierarchical steps, and flowcharts. They are all used to prevent being too detailed that people could subjectively interpret standard operating procedures or too negative that people will not be encouraged to do them.
The Purpose of a Standard Operating Procedure Template
Using a well-designed standard operating procedure template, or standard operating procedure form, makes it easier for managers and employees to put the best practices for a specific job to be done or an established business process into a clearly-communicated, systematically-written document.
Benefits of Implementing a Standard Operating Procedure
Businesses often do not invest enough resources into creating SOPs for their workforce. Often cited reasons include the significant time investment required, limited trained staff to create them and difficulties with tracking whether staff use and perform them.
However, there are significant benefits of incorporating an SOP into a workplace which should encourage trainers and managers to invest the relevant time into building SOPs. Here are just 4 benefits of using an SOP in your workplace:
SOP Benefit #1: Improves efficiency and quality
Variations in work processes can compromise quality and work efficiency. Implementing SOPs help prevent this scenario by helping to standardizing all critical processes and reduce work variations. SOPs also assist with improving the Quality Management System (QMS) and can prepare the organization to pass relevant ISO certification and comply with regulatory requirements.
SOP Example: Food Manufacturing Industry
Common food manufacturing SOPs cover tasks such as handwashing, cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces, and proper packaging process. This applies to all the employees working in the facility to maintain food safety standards and prevent contamination of food, ingredients and packaging materials.
SOP Benefit #2:Facilitates employee training
SOPs complement training materials to educate workers and serve as a guide for onboarding new hires. Senior staff with relevant job experience should also be involved in drafting the SOP procedures and steps. SOPs are an effective tool to supplement classroom and supervised training as workers can follow steps at their own pace when performing their duties.
SOP Example: Pharmaceutical Industry
Common pharmaceutical SOPs cover tasks such as dispensing, sourcing of medicines, and expiry date checking. SOPs help ensure that pharmacists assist in protecting the safety of the patients and reduce unintended omissions and errors in dispensing correct drugs to patients.
SOP Benefit #3:Increases profitability
Following SOPs can help ensure consistent and high-quality delivery or products and services. It helps improve and maintain brand standards and customer satisfaction. This is important to ensure smooth business operations and overall profitability.
SOP Example: Hospitality Industry
Common hotel SOPs cover tasks such as general housekeeping, bed making, dining, and performing pest control treatments. This is essential to maintain the quality and consistency of service and standards in a hotel and provide good customer care and experience.
SOP Benefit #4: Ensures a healthy and safe environment
SOPs describe in detail how to safely perform work involving hazardous processes, materials, equipment, and conditions. These procedures help reinforce strict compliance in safety protocols to prevent unforeseen accidents and fatalities.
SOP Example: Construction Industry
Common construction SOPs cover tasks such as toolbox talk or pre-work meetings, risk assessments, and job safety analysis. This is vital to discuss and evaluate high-risk tasks that workers will perform and develop ways on how to perform these tasks safely.
How to Write A Standard Operating Procedure Effectively
Writing an SOP, with the use of SOP templates, depends on the purpose, industry, and audience and can vary from process manuals to checklists or flow diagrams. That said, an effective SOP should focus on three key areas:
Step 1: State a Clear Purpose
State a clear objective of what needs to be accomplished and why it is important. This should answer the essential questions such as “What is the target process?”, “Why write an SOP for this process?” and “What needs to be improved in this process?”. A clearly written purpose should help staff understand why they are following the relevant SOP procedures rather than simply performing process for the sake of process.
SOP Purpose Example (office housekeeping):
The purpose of this SOP is to outline housekeeping services and to ensure that workstations are free of debris and clutter. This is vital to maintaining a safe work environment and to prevent any minor or major incidents from occurring.
Step 2: Define the Scope
Outlines what specific tasks are covered for the intended audience. This should cover who should be following the SOP and list the relevant duties and responsibilities that the SOP covers. It may also be helpful to outline what is out of scope for this particular SOP and reference other documents that the audience can refer to for other tasks.
SOP Scope Example (office housekeeping):
This standard operating procedure is intended to guide facility management staff in covering the following office housekeeping duties:
– Window cleaning
– Carpet care
– Waste disposal
This document does not cover identifying equipment damage and repair work. Refer to the office incident report SOP for those tasks.
Step 3: List the Procedures
List the steps or procedures in detail. Procedure steps should be written in an orderly, concise, and easy-to-read structure. Keep all steps direct and avoid including irrelevant or unnecessary information for that process. Pictures or illustrations can be included for a more comprehensive and clearer presentation of SOP.
What to Include in Your Standard Operating Procedure Template?
The elements of an SOP vary according to its industry-specific purpose. There’s no standardized set of questions that are applicable to all SOPs but the crucial aspect is that they should be aligned with the purpose and created according to certain requirements—set by a team, manager, or organization—that need to be complied with. Here are a few sample questions you can include in your SOP template:
Ideally, before going in on the nitty-gritty of any SOP, you should add basic information and indicate details that help strengthen its foundation. Consider asking these questions:
- What is the main purpose of the SOP?
- Or what do you want to accomplish with the use of the SOP?
- What are the scopes of the SOP? (Specify each one so they are clear.)
- Which procedures should be followed?
- What are the tools and materials needed to ensure successful completion of the procedures?
- Who are the people responsible for performing the procedures?
Most SOPs contain general housekeeping questions to ensure a clean, safe, and organized execution of tasks and activities in the place. Some general housekeeping questions include:
- Is the room/place free from clutter, obstructions, or other unnecessary items?
- Is the place cleaned/disinfected as frequently as needed?
- Are floors vacuumed regularly?
- Are windows spot cleaned with appropriate glass cleaners?
- When cleaning, are necessary protective gear such as gloves and goggles, observed?
If your business is related to food manufacturing, the SOP should help you and your employees standardize the procedures required to keep the place safe and sanitary. Here are some food manufacturing questions you can include in your SOP template:
- Are hands washed with warm water and soaped for 20 seconds?
- Did you scrub your wrist, fingers, and fingertips while handwashing?
- Are food contact surfaces pre-rinsed with hot water?
- Are food contact surfaces cleaned with appropriate cleaning materials?
- Are equipment and surfaces visually inspected for the presence of food residues?
FAQs About SOP Template
Yes, there are pre-existing SOP templates that can be used or exported via Microsoft Word. Ready-to-use templates such as this enable managers and staff to work together and communicate procedures effortlessly. If you want to know more about that, try this simple SOP template from SafetyCulture.
SOPs are commonly used across different industries such as manufacturing, hospitality, construction, and pharmaceutical industries. These procedures are designed for:
- quality and compliance;
- routine or highly repetitive activities;
- high-risk tasks;
- new processes or line of business; and
- training program initiatives.
When creating an effective and comprehensive SOP, steps to consider include:
- Set a clear objective
- Plan the operation tasks
- Set procedures
- Test and revise
Below is a simple standard operating procedure outline and sample sop format:
- Title Page – contains the complete SOP title, SOP number, date of approval or version number, the name and signature of the author, the name and signature of the person authorizing the SOP, and their dates of signing respectively.
- Table of Contents – indicate page numbers and the total number of pages of the SOP
- Purpose – establishes the objectives and scope of the standard operating procedure
- Procedures – provides unambiguous and imperative descriptions of each process step
- Quality Assurance – states the criteria for the control of the described product/service, system or process
- References – any related SOPs of operations used in the present SOP
What is SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) and how can I use it for creating effective SOPs?
Paper based SOP documents make it challenging to track whether staff are following and completing the procedures in their daily duties. SafetyCulture is an effective digital SOP tool to make it easier for staff to use and provide visibility and record keeping to trainers and managers that tasks are being completed properly.
With the SafetyCulture mobile app and web platform you can:
- Create paperless standard operating procedure checklists for every significant task
- Read and perform SOP procedures on your handheld device
- Capture photos for supportive evidence of SOP steps being completed
- Capture electronic signatures
- Submit your SOPs to your supervisor anytime, anywhere
- Secure all SOPs in cloud storage for review purposes. View sample report of a standard operating procedure PDF here.
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Templates
This standard operating procedure template for housekeeping is used by compliance teams to evaluate if staff comply with the general office standard operating procedures when cleaning overhead lighting fixtures and Venetian blinds. This housekeeping SOP template example can also be used as a confirm-do checklist for a housekeeper's ultimate guide when performing cleaning duties. Using a mobile device, read the instructions in the template before performing each task. You may add some photo evidence for each task that you completed. After finishing the task, affix a digital signature for confirmation.
A Housekeeping SOP Checklist is used as a guide to ensure that the standard cleaning protocols set by an establishment are followed. This checklist can be used by housekeepers, cleaners, and housekeeping managers to ensure that rooms are clean and adequately prepared before allowing the next guest to check-in.
- Ensure that doors, lights, windows, and amenities are working properly.
- Check if the room and bathroom are clean and toiletries and other necessities are provided for the next guest.
- Confirm that hotel brochures, along with the hotel’s food and drink menu, is available.
- Sign-off with a digital signature from the inspector or assigned housekeeper.
A food manufacturing SOP template is used to evaluate if workers adhere to standard food manufacturing protocols such as handwashing, cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces before proceeding with the food production process. This can also guide workers to prevent unintended omissions and ensure product quality.
This packaging standard operating procedure checklist is used by GMP Consulting Services, Inc. for their Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) audits for Pharmaceuticals. Use this comprehensive SOP checklist to easily assess pass/fail criteria in the facility and grounds, warehouse, receiving, powder filling, liquid filling, packaging, maintenance, quality control, quality assurance, and documentation.
A kitchen SOP template is used to check if kitchen staff adhere to standards and best practices designed to maintain a safe, hygienic kitchen environment. This template can help guide kitchen staff in delivering efficient service and performing their kitchen duties in a timely manner.
This General Kitchen Cleaning SOP Checklist can help maintain a clean and sanitized restaurant. Conduct your inspections using this checklist to evaluate if employees wear hygienic clothing and if food is properly handled. This also checks if kitchen facilities are cleaned and sanitized properly after use, and waste materials are segregated and properly disposed of. Provide your recommendations and overall assessment after the inspection. Use SafetyCulture on your mobile device to generate on-site reports and capture photo evidence of defective items.
This USDA SOP template is used to prevent foodborne illness by ensuring that all food contact surfaces are properly cleaned and sanitized. This standard operating procedure applies to food service employees involved in cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces.
This USDA SOP template is used to prevent foodborne illness by ensuring that all items held on food bars are protected from contamination. This procedure applies to anyone who is responsible for maintaining and monitoring the self-service food bars.
This comprehensive SOP checklist can be used by supervisors to check housekeeper duties and evaluate their adherence to housekeeping SOPs. It can also be utilized to verify if hotel staff and amenities comply with hotel safety regulations and housekeeping standards. This checklist converted using SafetyCulture uses dynamic field feature which allows you to label or identify individual rooms and conduct inspections with specific recurring questions.
This laboratory SOP template is used by the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) to perform proper process hazard assessment of hazardous materials and physical hazards prior to using a chemical laboratory. Use this SOP template to efficiently review exposure controls, engineering controls, PPE, storage and handling requirements, waste management, decontamination procedures, and emergency procedures. A proficiency and authorization statement is also included in this mobile-ready SOP template.
A fumigation procedure template is used by a vessel’s officer-in-charge as a guide to ensure efficacy and safety when certified fumigators apply fumigants onboard. Use this template to easily adhere to USDA-approved fumigation procedure, from suitability verification to recordkeeping and monitoring. This template has been designed to make it easier for crew members to:
- Ensure proper fumigation procedure.
- Take/attach photos of potential infestation or leaks.
- Assign corrective actions with a due date and priority level.
- Complete the fumigation report with digital signatures.
- Automatically generate and store the fumigation report in the cloud.
This confined space entry SOP checklist is based on OSHA standard operating procedure. The primary goal of this inspection is to check if safety regulations are followed by workers before, during and after work. Use SafetyCulture to capture significant data while inspecting the area, equipment and people involved. Share your audits with your supervisors and safety managers while on site.
This lockout tagout SOP checklist is based on OSHA standard operating procedure. This inspection aims to evaluate if LOTO procedures are followed by employees before commencing with the maintenance checks. With the use of SafetyCulture, you can capture photo evidence of non compliance with the safety regulations while the lockout procedure is going on. Notify safety managers if problems occur during the inspection for immediate actions and resolution.
This SOP template is used by Australian Drilling Contractor, Coughlan Drilling, as their general standard operating procedure guidelines prior to operational tasks. This generic construction SOP template can be used as pre-task checklist to ensure proper PPE, hazard identification, and workers sign off. This SOP template can also be used to take photos of each task step and add descriptions.
A management of change procedure template helps safety officers identify and control occupational health and safety risks brought by organizational changes. Use this MOC template to review operational procedures and determine changes and the risks that may occur. Help the organization comply with legal and industry standards for workplace health and safety using SafetyCulture. With SafetyCulture, you can:
- Use mobile devices to create notes (and take optional photos) on corresponding issues to be addressed.
- Assign action to the responsible person and receive updates.
- Monitor the progress of an MOC.
- Submit MOC reports as PDF document or weblink.
- Edit digital MOC templates according to the needs of the organization.
This office SOP template can be used by Human Resources (HR) professionals to implement standard operating procedures for employee offboarding. Ensure a seamless separation for the exiting employee. HR staff can use this as a guide to:
- Conduct a step-by-step check on all offboarding procedures from required paperwork, knowledge transfer and recovering company assets
- Add detailed notes or comments
- Add comments and recommendations
- Complete the checklist by capturing electronic signatures of the employee and HR representative