Is It Acceptable To Use Generic Safe Work Method Statements?


Let’s say your business has been asked to supply a safe work method statement for a job. A job which requires that the SWMS is approved before works can commence.

While some businesses may have the time, resources and know-how available to quickly put together a SWMS. Many businesses, do not know-how to prepare a SWMS or have resources to spare. In these cases generic pre-filled SWMS can be an ideal solution.

But is it okay to use generic SWMS? We answer some of your frequently asked questions about generic SWMS below.

Can We Use A Generic SWMS?

Yes, if the SWMS takes into account the hazards and risks specific to the task at the workplace then a generic SWMS is acceptable. In fact, the Safe Work Australia, Construction Work Code of Practice dated November 2013 states “A generic SWMS may be prepared and used for high risk construction work activities that are carried out on a regular basis..”.

However, it is important to remember that if at any point a new hazard or increased risk is identified, which is not addressed by the SWMS, the required controls must be added to the SWMS and all relevant parties informed.

Do I need to develop the SWMS from a blank template or can I source one already prepared?

There are several options available to you when it comes to preparing SWMS, including:

  • starting from scratch – Download a free blank SWMS document
  • engaging someone to assist you in the development of your SWMS
  • purchase a generic SWMS that has been developed for the task or,
  • any combination of the above.

Whether you choose to purchase generic SWMS or develop your own SWMS is entirely up to you. However, you should be prepared to add and remove information as need be from any pre-purchased or industry supplied SWMS as it may not cover all of the hazards found on your worksite.

In any instance, it is critical that all hazards and risks are identified, the required controls for these hazards added to the SWMS and, all relevant parties informed.

Can one SWMS be prepared to cover a variety of high risk activities?

One SWMS can be prepared to cover a variety of prescribed high risk activities, for example using a Boom Lift (Work in an area with movement of powered mobile plant) to repair a sign (Risk of a person falling more than 2 metres). As long as the SWMS clearly addresses each activity and how the activities may also impact each other, a single SWMS can be used. Alternatively, a separate SWMS could be prepared for each high risk construction work activity.

I have a particular SWMS developed that I use on multiple worksites. Is this ok?

If the hazards, risks and subsequent controls are the same on every worksite for that particular task, then the same SWMS can be used. However, if a new hazard or increased risk is identified then the required control must be added to the SWMS and all affected parties informed.

In short generic SWMS are acceptable. But if you want to ensure your SWMS are approved each time, simply downloading and printing off your SWMS won’t cut it. You need to ensure all SWMS are made site-specific.

Want to know more? We have an FAQ page that may be useful to you. View Frequently Asked Questions

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One thought on “Is It Acceptable To Use Generic Safe Work Method Statements?

  1. Agree totally with your advice that Generic SWMS are acceptable providing there has been a risk assessment of the given site/project to show it can apply as is, or indeed, does require some modification.
    It is consistent with guidance provided and the ACT and NSW regulators.
    Site address and supervisor etc are examples of likely necessary changes.
    Having a risk assessment as a step in the safe system of work, is key to ensuring workers are aware of and can manage the hazards and risks.
    Combining where applicable, three or high risk work categories withing one SWMS for a given task, is also a practical and simplistic way of ensuring a safe system of work that will be more readily followed (implemented) by the workers.

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