SWMS: When are they required?


SWMS Document

A Safe Work Method Statements sets out the logical sequence of job steps required to complete work activities. Used to identify and determine risks involved with work activities, a SWMS should identify hazards and control measures required to complete the task efficiently and safely.

Considered an administrative control a safe work method statement is used to guide actions through risk management processes. The use of administrative controls such as SWMS should be used in conjunction with other control measures, and never alone. We have previously written about administrative controls and the hierarchy of control in our blog post-Risk Assessment Form vs Job Safety Analysis: What’s the Difference?

It is important to note that the development of a work method statement is not enough, works need to be carried out in accordance with the SWMS for them to be effective.

High-Risk Construction Work: SWMS

In Australia, it is a legislative requirement, that a person conducting a business or undertaking prepare a SWMS for any high-risk construction work. Works that are considered high-risk construction include:

  • 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

A full list of high-risk construction and examples sourced from the Safe Work Australia website can be viewed here – High-Risk Construction Work Table.

It is an important aspect of any SWMS that it reflect the site-specific circumstances of the job site it will be used in. Ensuring your SWMS are made site-specific ensures that the changing nature of work sites is taken into account. SWMS that are not reviewed and revised prior to each new activity may not meet WHS requirements.

Preparing Safe Work Method Statements: Top 5 Tips

Our top five tips for using and preparing SafetyCulture Safe Work Method Statements

  1. Do consult with workers and health and safety representatives the content of the SWMS
  2. Identify work that is high-risk construction work
  3. Ensure the SWMS is made site specific
    • Remove hazards and controls which are irrelevant
    • Add site specific hazards and control measures identified, including those for high-risk construction work
  4. Define person/s responsible for implementing control measures and following monitoring and review procedures
  5. Ensure that works are carried out in accordance with the SWMS

Consultation Is Essential

Health and safety applies to everyone in the business and it is everyone’s responsibility to maintain a safe work environment. An important aspect of providing a safe work environment is effectively consulting with workers. Essential to the management of health and safety risks, consultation, which is a legal requirement, must be conducted, so far as is reasonably practicable, with workers and other duty holders.

Consultation processes, promote a work environment that provides everyone with the opportunity to participate in discussions to identify hazards and risks, safety concerns and controls. By involving and encouraging worker input and harnessing the combined knowledge and experience of everyone in the workplace more informed decisions can be made, in turn making a safe work environment more achievable. Moreover, preparing SWMS in consultation with persons undertaking the work is recommended as they best understand the work being carried out and can ensure that works are carried out in accordance with the SWMS.

When is consultation required? A PCBU is required to consult with employees on issues that have the potential to directly affect their health and safety. The Work Health and Safety Consultation, Co-operation and Co-ordination Code of Practice outlines issues that a PCBU must consult with workers on:

  • Making decisions about ways to eliminate or minimise those risks
  • Identifying hazards and assessing risks
  • Making decisions about the adequacy of facilities for the welfare of workers
  • Providing information and training
  • Proposing changes that may affect the health or safety of your workers, and
  • Making decisions about procedures for:
    • consulting with workers
    • resolving health or safety issues
    • monitoring the health of your workers
    • Monitoring the conditions at the workplace

Useful Links

Want to learn more? Below are some links to useful resources

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