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What is SOP?

Standard operating procedure

A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help workers carry out complex routine operations. SOPs aim to achieve efficiency, quality output and uniformity of performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with industry regulations.

The military (e.g. in the U.S. and UK) sometimes uses the term standing (rather than standard) operating procedure because a military SOP refers to a unit's unique procedures, which are not necessarily standard to another unit. The word "standard" can imply that only one (standard) procedure is to be used across all units.

What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?

An SOP is a procedure specific to your operation that describes the activities necessary to complete tasks in accordance with industry regulations, provincial laws or even just your own standards for running your business. Any document that is a “how to” falls into the category of procedures. In a manufacturing environment, the most obvious example of an SOP is the step by step production line procedures used to make products as well train staff.An SOP, in fact, defines expected practices in all businesses where quality standards exist. SOPs play an important role in your small business. SOPs are policies, procedures and standards you need in the operations, marketing and administration disciplines within your business to ensure success. These can create:•efficiencies, and therefore profitability•consistency and reliability in production and service•fewer errors in all areas•a way to resolve conflicts between partners•a healthy and safe environment•protection of employers in areas of potential liability and personnel matters•a roadmap for how to resolve issues – and the removal of emotion from troubleshooting – allowing needed focus on solving the problem•a first line of defense in any inspection, whether it be by a regulatory body, a partner or potential partner, a client, or a firm conducting due diligence for a possible purchase•value added to your business should you ever wish to sell it

16 Essential Steps to Writing Standard Operating Procedures

Writing standard operating procedures: a quick how-to guide

Step 1: Understand how you are going to present your SOPs

There are a number of formats you can choose from when defining how you’ll structure and present your standard operating procedures. The international standard you probably use if you work in a large company is ISO-9000, or some variant of that.


As we go forward with the article, we’ll be keeping things broadly in line with ISO-9000, but we’ll also build off that foundation. A solopreneur might want something a little different, and as good as the ISO method is for documenting SOPs, it has limitations in regards to how actionable it is. We’ll look to improve on that with the use of tools and tech!

For anyone who wants to stick as closely as possible to the ISO-9000 structure, I’ve built this structured template below which you can start using right now.

Guidance for Preparing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)


2.1 SOP Preparation

The organization should have a procedure in place for determining what procedures or processes need to be documented. Those SOPs should then be written by individuals knowledgeable with the activity and the organization's internal structure. These individuals are essentially subject-matter experts who actually perform the work or use the process. A team approach can be followed, especially for multi-tasked processes where the experiences of a number of individuals are critical, which also promotes “buy-in” from potential users of the SOP. SOPs should be written with sufficient detail so that someone with limited experience with or knowledge of the procedure, but with a basic understanding, can successfully reproduce the procedure when unsupervised. The experience requirement for performing an activity should be noted in the section on personnel qualifications. For example, if a basic chemistry or biological course experience or additional training is required that requirement should be indicated.

2.2 SOP Review and Approval

SOPs should be reviewed (that is, validated) by one or more individuals with appropriate training and experience with the process. It is especially helpful if draft SOPs are actually tested by individuals other than the original writer before the SOPs are finalized. The finalized SOPs should be approved as described in the organization’s Quality Management Plan or its own SOP for preparation of SOPs. Generally the immediate supervisor, such as a section or branch chief, and the organization’s quality assurance officer review and approve each SOP. Signature approval indicates that an SOP has been both reviewed and approved by management. As per the Government Paperwork Elimination Act of 1998, use of electronic signatures, as well as electronic maintenance and submission, is an acceptable substitution for paper, when practical.

Standard operating procedures (SOP) - DFO-MPO

In response to the rapidly growing aquaculture industry on the south coast of Newfoundland, Habitat Management (HM) staff of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) needed to develop standardized monitoring in order to document any changes to benthic fish habitat as a result of these activities. From a regulatory perspective, potential impacts on benthic fish habitat and its biodiversity has typically been monitored by measuring the sulphide content of superficial sediment samples. These sulphide concentrations were then compared to a set of thresholds to determine potential impacts on fish and fish habitat and the need for any regulatory action. It is important to note that the majority of marine finfish sites in Newfoundland occur over hard bottom substrates rather than soft bottoms so the sediment sulphide approach to benthic environmental monitoring is neither effective nor predictable. Both the sampling technique (grabs) and chemical proxies (redox and sulphide) utilized by DFO in many regions present challenges in areas having hard bottom substrates, which leads to inaccurate and unreliable assessments of benthic impacts. Therefore, underwater video of the benthic habitat was chosen as an alternate means of assessing such impacts. In order for this methodology to be repeatable and scientifically defensible, it was essential to validate against Newfoundland specific environmental conditions, including the biological assemblages likely to be encountered. Standardizing video collection and data recording and analysis was also necessary for this approach to be successful.

Standard Operating Procedures

For Coordinating Public Health Event Preparedness and Response in the WHO African Region

AFR African Region

CIRMF Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (Gabon)

CV Curriculum vitae

DFID Department for International Development (UK)

DON Disease Outbreak News

ECHO European Commission - Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection (ECHO)

EIS Event Information Site [for IHR National Focal Points]

EMS Event Management System

GOARN Global Outbreak Alert and Response NetworkGOARN OST GOARN Operational Support Team

IHR International Health Regulations

IDSR Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response

IST Inter-country Support Team, WHO AFRMSF Medecins Sans Frontieres

NFP (IHR) National focal point

NICD National Institute for Communicable Diseases (Republic of South Africa)

PH Public health

PHE Public Health Event

RRA Rapid risk assessment

RRT Rapid Response TeamSitrepSituation report

SOPs Standard Operating Procedures

TOR Terms of reference

USAID United States Agency for International Development

US CDC United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

WHO AFRO World Health Organization African Regional Office

WHO CO World Health Organization Country Office

WHO HQ World Health Organization Head Quarters

WR WHO Representative (also called Head of WHO Country Office)

MDSAP QMS New Document Proposal (NDP) Template Preparation Guidelines


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