A workers guide to High Risk Construction SWMS


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In Australia, it is a legislative requirement that a written Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is produced for work which is determined to be High Risk Construction Work under the WHS Regulations.

Where any Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) must ensure that SWMS are developed for all high risk construction work prior to work commencing, and that any works are carried out in accordance with the SWMS.

What is High Risk Construction Work

Works that involve any of the following are considered “High Risk Construction”

  • asbestos, explosives or diving work
  • building or demolition work involving tilt up or pre-cast concrete
  • confined spaces
  • demolition
  • pressurised gas distribution mains or piping chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines energised electrical installations or services.
  • Structure or building involving structural alterations or repairs that require temporary support to prevent collapse
  • work carried out adjacent to a road, railway or shipping lane, traffic corridor
  • work in an area that may have contaminated or flammable atmosphere
  • working around mobile plant / machinery
  • working at depths greater than 1.5 metres, including tunnels or mines
  • working at heights where there is a risk of falling more than two metres, including work on telecommunications towers
  • working in areas where there is risk of being exposed to artificial extreme temperatures
  • working in or near water or other liquid that involves risk of drowning

Writing High Risk SWMS

The purpose of a SWMS is to enable all people involved with specific high risk construction work to have a full understanding of the risks involved with undertaking that work and to implement the risk controls outlined in the SWMS to ensure the job is completed safely. Considered an administrative control a SWMS is used to support controls considered to be more effective at eliminating or minimising risks, for example substitution and elimination controls.

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hierarchy/

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hierarchy/

A SWMS should reflect the task at hand and include a logical work activity sequence, along with potential hazards associated with each job step outlined and the control measures to be put in place to control the risks identified. 

It is important for a Safe Work Method Statement to be written in a way that can be easily understood, as it forms part of induction materials that workers must read and understand prior to any works commencing on site. 

If you are preparing your own Safe Work Method Statements and need a guide on what information to include, we have previously written about “How to Write a Safe Work Method Statement: The Ultimate 20-Point Checklist” here

Pre-Written High Risk SWMS Templates

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