War Graves Commission


Our client, CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) has a large itinerant workforce who maintain a large number of buildings and their grounds in many different countries.  There is a wide range of tasks and our client has detailed written risks assessments for all of them.   CWGC told us that at the moment we laboriously go through the wordy risk assessments and get staff to sign to say they have seen them.  What our client wanted to know was ‘is there a better approach?’

We looked at a sample of the client’s risk assessments and related documents and identified that their approach was unsatisfactory primarily because:

  • There was a lot of information in risk assessments that was not relevant to the people carrying out the task – this was what was making going through them so laborious.
  • There was also a lack of consistency in the layout of information intended to tell people how to deal with hazards.

Our recommendation was that work instructions were written for each of the tasks that had been risk assessed.  However, CWGC was not familiar with the various types of work instruction and their uses so we started with a detailed briefing on the functions of work instructions (WIs).  The key points from this briefing are summarised below.


WIs can serve a number of functions, the main ones being:

  • ensuring that standards are set and documented clearly,
  • specifying instructional material – courses based on written WIs are usually more focussed and shorter
  • acting as an aide memoire, for example, by reading though the WI just before undertaking a task that not performed very often.

Worked examples

To help CWGC understand the briefing we provided a number of worked examples.  We did this by converting the client’s existing documentation into WIs that met the requirements of ISO/TR 10013 Guidelines for quality management system documentation. Using the disciplined approach necessary to conform to ISO/TR 13001 identified some omissions and inaccuracies in the CWGC’s documentation, which they were easily able to correct. These examples also provided a template for the client’s future WIs.


Although CWGC understood the briefing and could clearly see the advantages of the WI approach they were not sure that they could prepare their own WIs and get them right first time.  To help with this we set up a mentoring service so that they could send us their WIs for review.  We could then give constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement.  The intention is that this will continue until we and CWGC are happy that the WIs are being written to the appropriate standard.


CWGC is moving to WI preparation because they can see the following likely benefits:

  • There will no longer be a need to go laboriously through wordy risks assessments.
  • Requirements for machinery, PPE, materials etc will be better specified.
  • Certain risks will be better controlled because of better information provision (warning signs on the equipment, not in a folder in the van).
  • Other risks will be better controlled because the WIs are set out with the tasks in chronological order – eg checks for damaged equipment before leaving the depot.
  • Training courses will be shorter and better focussed – no learning of material better supplied in other ways, for example by putting warning signs on equipment.

Dr Tony Boyle’s recent work (April 2015) with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s 18001 health and safety management system, has helped us to achieved certification in five countries. With a diverse workforce, across so many countries, Tony’s practical approach has helped us to demystify the health and safety process – producing a set of clear instructions that can be easily understood and readily followed. Tony’s advice has played a key role in simplifying our training process.

– Duncan Thomas – Health and Safety and Environmental Risk Manager, CWGC

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