Standard Operating Procedures

Within organisations Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are used to describe how a task should be completed, the protocols that should be followed and the standards of work that should be met by everyone who completes that task. They often include step by step instructions on how to complete the task. They enable an organisation to maintain consistent standards and if followed correctly help to ensure that tasks are completed safely and to a high standard every time. They may be supported by policy documents which outline the organisations general approach.

Members of staff may have to sign to say they have read through the SOP or received training on how to complete the tasks it describes. However, as this sign off only records that keepers have received instruction, a further sign off process may be needed when they have demonstrated understanding and/or demonstrated the skills required to complete the task. Where there may be different levels of skill demonstrated around the same task, for example how well a keeper is able to administer medication to a particular species of animal, a score may be given to highlight where there is still room for improvement. Depending on the nature of the tasks described, SOPs and sign off processes may be specific to particular species or animal section or they be more generic and applicable anywhere in the organisation where the task is conducted. For example, an SOP might relate to feeding a specific species or it might relate more generally to how to deal with lost children.

To decide what SOPs and sign off processes are needed it can be helpful to break down the tasks into groups. The sections of the EPZQF provide one way to do this, however, managers may prefer to group together competencies based on how they are used in their section. To do this, managers could start by making a list of all of the competencies keepers in their section require and then group them according to how they used, for example:

  • Monitoring and recording – which would include competencies such as data entry, computer literacy, behavioural understanding and recoding
  • [More examples to follow shortly.]

The necessary SOPs or guidelines for how the competencies are demonstrated on section can then be compiled. In some zoos each animal section might have a handbook that outlines all of the different tasks and how they should be completed.

You can download an example structure for a handbook and a staff sign off sheet here [link to sign off sheet will be added shortly].