Safe Work Method Statements

The purpose of a safe work method statement

The purpose of creating a safe work method statement (SWMS) is to ensure that all persons completing a relevant construction activity are aware of, and understand the requirements and steps that must be followed in order to complete that construction activity in a safe manner. 

The SWMS sets out the sequence for completing the task and identifies hazards related to the task. It further provides practical measures that the worker must follow to address and control those hazards. 

In the past, SWMS have also been referred to as Job Saftey Analysis (JSA) and Work Method Statements (WMS). 

When is a SWMS legally required?

Pursuant to section 299 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (Qld), and similar numbered provisions under other state and territory harmonised acts, a business conducting “high risk construction” work must, before that work commences, ensure that a SWMS is prepared.

In order to know when a SWMS is required, we must consider how the regulation defines “high risk construction work”.

High risk construction work is defined under the regulation as follows:

                  Construction work that:

(a)    involves a risk of a person falling more than 2m; or

(b)    is carried out on a telecommunication tower; or

(c)    involves demolition of an element of a structure that is load-bearing or otherwise related to the physical integrity of the structure; or

(d)    involves or is likely to involve, the disturbance of asbestos; or

(e)    involves structural alterations or repairs that require temporary support to prevent collapse; or

(f)     is carried out in or near a confined space; or

(g)    is carried out in or near-
(i) a shaft or trench with an excavated depth of greater than 1.5m; or
(ii) a tunnel; or

(h)    involves the use of explosives; or

(i)     is carried out on or near pressurised gas distribution mains or pipping; or

(j)     is carried out on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines; or

(k)    is carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services; or

(l)     is carried out in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere; or

(m)  involves tilt-up or precast concrete; or

(n)    is carried out on, in or adjacent to a road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor that is in use by traffic other than pedestrians; or

(o)    is carried out in an area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant; or

(p)    is carried out in an area in which there are artificial extremes of temperature; or

(q)    is carried out in or near water or other liquid that involves risk of drowning; or

(r)     involves diving work.

Once prepared, it is the responsibility of the relevant business to ensure that the steps contained in the SWMS is followed when completing the relevant high risk construction task.

Penalties apply to businesses that do not prepare compliant SWMS when performing high risk construction work and when the procedures contained in a SWMS are not followed in practice when completing the works.

SWMS and non high risk construction work

If a task is not considered to be  ‘high risk construction’ work under the regulation, this does not mean that no risk management procedures are required to be completed by the business before work commences. 

Management must consider all tasks that it requests its workers to perform and develop appropriate risk management procedures to ensure that the system workers use to complete a certain tasks are safe.

In some circumstances, whilst the regualtion may not require a detailed SWMS, the business may in any event be requested to develop and provide one to the Principal Contractor managing the construction project.

Developing general risk assessments for hazardous tasks and hazardous plant and machinery are other practical tools, which businesses can use to ensure that workers are completing tasks in a safe manner.

The contents of a compliant and practical SWMS

The regulation is quite specific about what a compliant SWMS must contain.
Sync or Swim prides itself on assisting clients develop compliant and practical SWMS for their business.

If your business needs assistance in this area, do not hesitate to get in contact with one of our specialist team members.

Article by: Paul Bright, Business Development and Compliance Specialist.