SOP Components, Use Cases, and Tips

Establish a culture of safety and quality in your organization with an SOP

Employees conducting SOP checks with a tablet

Published 22 Jul 2022

What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?

A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a documentation of instructions on how to execute a certain work procedure. It can act as a checklist that guides team members on how to carry out complex work tasks effectively and safely. Having SOPs in place ensures that the organization stays aligned regarding standards that will help them achieve their goals and objectives.

How Can SOPs Help Businesses?

When all members of the organization have a clear understanding of their goals and objectives, carrying out tasks becomes more effective. Here are a few examples of how businesses can benefit from SOPs:

  • It ensures consistency and adherence to best practices
    When SOPs are in place, operational best practices are no longer a suggestion but instead a requirement for all members of the organization. Output becomes consistent as SOPs eliminate the guesswork from complex tasks.
  • It provides proper onboarding and training for employees
    SOPs can be multipurpose, serving as both training and onboarding material for workers. Depending on the nature of operation, organization’s should provide SOP documents in a format that works best for their teams.
  • It ensures safety and quality
    With SOPs in place, employees are better guided with their work tasks. Quality is maintained and inefficiencies such as accidents and property damage are reduced or eliminated.
  • It ensures compliance with regulatory standards
    Workers and auditors can use SOPs as checklists to ensure that correct work procedures are reinforced. An SOP outline can include steps and procedures that aid in achieving or maintaining compliance with various regulatory standards like ISO certifications.

Industry Use Cases for SOPs

SOPs are widely used by organizations and are not exclusive to any industry. A significant use can for them is for managing Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) audits and the like. However, as long as an organization involves critical tasks in their daily operations, SOPs will come in handy. It will ensure that those critical tasks are done in a safe and efficient manner.

Below are the common industries where SOPs are used:

  • Manufacturing
    The manufacturing industry engages in the transformation of raw materials into products. Employees need to perform numerous routine tasks in a day, some manual and some automated. To avoid product errors and injuries in the workplace, management must set manufacturing standard operating procedures to ensure safety and quality in production.
  • Food Services
    The food industry’s main priority is to ensure food safety in their procedures. SOPs come in handy when handling, preparing, and serving food because they help prevent legal and regulatory problems caused by foodborne illnesses or contamination.
  • Hospitality
    Businesses in the hospitality industry like hotels use SOPs to train their staff on procedures like housekeeping, food and beverage serving and preparation, catering, and more. It is also applied to other hospitality management operations to develop and deliver high-quality service to guests.

Components of an SOP

A standard operating procedure should consist of the following key components:

SOP components

  • Purpose
    This section defines the intent of your SOP. It includes the goals, objectives, and pain points it aims to solve.
  • Procedures
    This section describes operating procedures in detail to properly guide employees into completing a task according to company standards and safety regulations. It may include clarification of terminology, health and safety warnings, troubleshooting instructions, and other necessary or additional steps to complete a task. In formulating the procedures, it is important to also choose the appropriate format (e.g., step-by-step, hierarchical, flowchart/decision tree, etc.).
  • Scope
    This section describes the extent and coverage of your SOP. It outlines where the SOP will be used, the people who will be engaging with it or will be impacted, limitations, and expectations.
  • Responsibilities
    This section specifies the employees or stakeholders involved in the processes stated and defines their role and responsibilities.
  • Approval Signatures
    This is usually found on the last page or cover. For accountability, your SOP should be signed off by key personnel.

4 Simple and Effective Tips for Writing Your SOP

Once you’ve understood what each of these components entail, you can use them as an outline for writing your SOP document. Below are 4 tips that can help you get started: 

Choose the Appropriate Format

There are various formats in which you can write an SOP:

  • Step by step
    This is the most common format. As its name suggests, it provides SOPs in the form of a numbered or bulleted list. This is most suitable for processes that are straightforward and do not require much decision making.
  • Hierarchical
    This is similar to the step-by-step format but is more detailed and provides specific instructions for each step. For example, if a procedure involves additional steps to complete, the hierarchical format breaks them down. This format is suitable for processes that require more detailed and specific instructions to complete.
  • Flowchart
    When there are multiple outcomes in a process and decision making is required, it is best to illustrate an SOP in flowchart form. A flowchart will better guide users on what to do per outcome.

Follow the 5 C’s

The purpose of an SOP is to eliminate the guesswork from your organization’s procedures and ensure that everyone is following the same procedure when performing specific tasks. As such, it is important to avoid ambiguity and be specific with the instructions that you provide in the SOP. The 5 C’s ensure that SOPs are clear, concise, correct, courteous and complete.

Use Visuals

There are different types of learners in your organization. Using visuals such as flowcharts, videos, or quizzes can help translate your SOPs into a much digestible format for your employees. Online learning tools allow you to transform standards and procedures into micro-lessons for easy retention.

Use an SOP template

Creating an SOP can sometimes be overwhelming, especially for organizations with a lot of processes involved in their daily operations. Instead of creating one from scratch, you can source for ready-built SOP templates in which all you need to do is fill out preset fields.


SafetyCulture Content Specialist

Jai Andales

Jai Andales is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. As a content specialist, she creates well-researched articles about health and safety topics. She is also passionate about empowering businesses to utilize technology in building a culture of safety and quality.

Jai Andales is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture since 2018. As a content specialist, she creates well-researched articles about health and safety topics. She is also passionate about empowering businesses to utilize technology in building a culture of safety and quality.