Developing Standard Operating Procedures for a water and sewer department

Nichole Simmons, Engineer, Public Works Department, City of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Raymond J. Gerke, CEO, VEMAX Management Inc., Edmonton, Alberta

The City of Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada) has involved workers and supervisors in the documentation of work practices. The City gathered good information but it wasn't apparent how to best utilize this information in the workplace. The City engaged VEMAX Management Inc. to establish a process to clearly document Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be used at the crew and crew supervisor levels. VEMAX has assisted with the development of SOPs in other agencies in Canada and Australia. The project built on what Saskatoon had already done and added a detailed method for collecting, reviewing and documenting the preferred work practices into a series of SOPs.

In order to help define and scope the desired outcome, the following objective was established: "To identify, document, and implement best practices by consistently documenting all necessary details that ensure successful completion of each job."

The City appointed Nichole Simmons to facilitate the acquisition, organization, and formatting of the SOPs based on the process outlined by VEMAX. The project started in 2003 with an intensive mentorship/training phase. Since that time, nine SOPs for major activities have been developed. Six of these SOPs are currently in the implementation phase, all with positive results.

The successful process included the following steps:

  • Work methods are documented based on field observations and discussions with experienced field staff.
  • The methods are then organized into a logical sequence, and are formatted into a standard SOP format.
  • Once the SOP is complete, a Trainee Manual is prepared. The Trainee Manual contains all the detailed steps and photos of how to do the job, while the SOP focuses on the key steps and the responsibilities of people performing the activity.
  • The SOP and Trainee Manuals are then reviewed by the individual chosen to be an "activity representative" and the SOP facilitator.
  • A Trainer's Tool Kit is then developed that is used by the trainer. The Tool Kit is closely linked to the Trainee Manual. The Tool Kit covers the method of presentation and resources required for the training. The Trainer's Tool Kit will include a timetable along with any activities and videos that may be required for training.
  • A Work Method Checklist is created from the SOP.
  • All documents are then reviewed by the appropriate manager, and changes are made as required. All documents are reviewed for grammar and spelling by an outside individual.
  • The document is printed and bound. Control copies are given to supervisory staff and managers. All document owners, control numbers and version numbers are recorded.
  • Training is scheduled. Uncontrolled procedures, Trainee Manuals and Work Method Checklists are printed, as well as any extra documents required in training. The individuals attending training are put on an attendance sheet to be initialed by each individual. All training performed is recorded.
  • The Work Method Checklists are given to the supervisors each time the tasks are performed.

To date, the City has completed SOPs for:

  • Water Main Repair
  • Distribution Valve Replacement/Repair
  • Hydrant Replacement
  • Sanitary Sewer Connection Repair
  • Storm Sewer Hazardous Material Spill
  • Severe Storm Response
  • Curb Stop Replacement
  • Sanitary Sewer Main Repair
  • Water Connection Repair

Based on the success of this initiative to date, an additional 26 SOPs have been identified and will be completed over the next two years. Samples of the City's SOP and trainee manual documents may be viewed in adobe format at the City of Saskatoon's website,

The City of Saskatoon's Public Works Department web page can be accessed at Nichole Simmons can be reached at Nichole.Simmons@City.Saskatoon.Sk.CA.

The mission of VEMAX Management Inc. is to assist all levels of government to improve their efficiency, effectiveness and accountability in the planning, preservation and utilization of public sector infrastructure. For more information on VEMAX, go to Raymond J. Gerke can be reached at