Writing an Effective Hazardous Materials SOP

If you operate a facility that uses hazardous materials, you must have standard operating procedure (SOP) documents illustrating how to perform tasks. An SOP is a set of instructions describing how to perform activities safely. An effective SOP is written to clearly illustrate imminent dangers, how to perform tasks safely, and what equipment should be used. We’ve put together a quick guide about writing standard operating procedures for waste management.

What is the Purpose of an SOP?

The purpose of an SOP is to provide a set of instructions to workers that includes all relevant steps and hazards associated with regular job activities. Procedures are there to define specific uses of hazardous materials, the dangers present, and how to use the material or machine properly. In the realm of hazardous materials and waste, an SOP is essential in keeping employees safe and ensuring only trained personnel are handling dangerous materials.

Creating an SOP for Hazardous Materials

Creating an SOP can seem like a daunting task, particularly for a high-hazard  workplace. However, a simple format that outlines tasks and hazards is the most effective way to write an SOP. A hazardous materials SOP should include:


The purpose should clearly define the intent of the document in a concise manner that communicates who the document applies to. This should include what the tasks are, what materials (hazardous or not) are used, and what applications they are used for. 


The scope should define who this procedure applies to in a manner that is clear to the personnel it covers and who it does not. 

List of Definitions

If your SOP must include industry jargon, it is important to include a section that covers the meanings of industry specific terms. This allows for new employees and users to fully understand what is expected of them. 


A section that defines who is responsible for various tasks, particularly if an emergency situation arises, is vital to ensuring work is done efficiently and correctly. 


The procedure section is the area that covers what is expected of personnel, how to stay safe, and details clarifying protocol, imminent hazards, and responsibilities. Within the procedure, there should be sections covering what the major steps are in the event of a chemical spill, how to maintain inspection records, when and how to inspect storage areas, how to dispose of waste, what personal protection equipment to use, engineering controls, and other special considerations.


It is imperative to include a section of revisions to the original SOP document. As industries change and incidents occur, SOP’s should be updated to eliminate the possibility of accidents happening a second time and to meet best management practices. 

It is important to remember that standard operating procedures are ultimately written to keep people safe. All documents should be written in a manner that is easily understood regardless of an employee’s level of comprehension. 

Have questions about writing standard operating procedures for waste management? Contact the experts at Maine Labpack today!