Safe Work Method Statements

Need a SWMS for your business?

All high-risk construction work activities require businesses to produce and use SWMS. If you haven’t already, clients and any invitations to tender or contract for services may ask for them. The SWMS also forms an important part of a contractor pre-qualification process to assess the businesses’ ability to manage risk control measures required on site to keep people safe. Under the WHS Regulations there are 18 high risk construction activities defined as:
  • Risk of a person falling more than 2 meters
  • Likely to involve disturbing asbestos
  • Work in or near a shaft or trench deeper than 1.5m or a tunnel
  • Work on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines
  • Tilt-up or precast concrete elements
  • Work in areas with artificial extremes of temperature
  • Work on a telecommunication tower
  • Temporary load-bearing support and repairs or require temporary support for structural alterations
  • Use of explosives
  • Work on or near energised electrical installations or services
  • Work on, in or adjacent to a road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor in use by traffic other than pedestrians
  • Work in or near water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning
  • Demolition of load-bearing structure
  • Work in or near a confined spaces
  • Work on or near pressurised gas mains or pipping
  • Work in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere
  • Powered Mobile Plant: Work in an area with movement of powered mobile plant
  • Diving work

The primary purpose of a SWMS is to act as a tool to support control measures to ensure risks are minimised or eliminated. Separate SWMS can also identify hazards that might require further risk assessment, safety training, administrative controls or the need to providing personal protective equipment.

When is a SWMS required?

The WHS Act and Regulations require SWMS to be used for any work that involves high risk construction work activities. A SWMS has to be prepared before the high-risk construction work activities commence.

Preparing a SWMS in advance of commencing high risk construction work, the principal contractor can assess the sub-contractor’s safety procedures to ensure it meets the required standard on site. An accurate and fit for purpose SWMS can also guide workers carrying out high risk work activities to follow the control measures outlined in the SWMS.

Do you just want a Safe Work Method Statement template?

Many business owners just want a safe work method statement template that they can fill out themselves but often the risk remains unaddressed. In our experience, the assistance of health and safety representatives avoid the creation of generic SWMS that might not meet the requirements of the work environment. This doesn’t mean we create overly detailed SWMS, but rather a working document that aimed at relevant workers addressing high risk construction work in a tangible, easy to use format that is written for a specific workplace in specific circumstances.

Pillar Consulting align this document with the actual WHS practices and systems including providing assistance to persons involved in the review processes. We achieve this by implementing

  • Workplace Health and Safety management systems including risk registers
  • Director, Management, Worker and Contractor inductions
  • Work method statement SWMS and Safe Work Procedures
  • Workplace specific risk assessment to identify workplace hazards
  • Address any warning signs early on during our engagement
  • Safety training and workshops
  • Verification and auditing to International Standards (ISO 45001, 9001, 14001)
  • Health and Safety culture and behaviours
  • Incident Management
  • Emergency Management
  • Contractor Management
  • Reporting
We have a package of services that provide you with the framework, documentation and support to manage your Workplace health and safety compliance and get you back to work as quickly as possible.

Purpose of a SWMS

The major goal of a SWMS document sets out the high-risk construction work activities to be carried out at the workplace, the hazards arising from these activities and the measures to be put in place to control the risks. A SWMS is an administrative control and is used to support higher order controls to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety, for example engineering controls.

SWMS are often used as a “generic”, one size fits all document. However, when prepared in consultation with managers, contractors and workers, a SWMS can be a valuable tool for any business. A well-prepared SWMS provide an opportunity to PCBU’s, Principal contractors and workers to deliver the construction project whilst meeting workplace health and safety standards to ultimately keep people safe. A SWMS is a tool to assist supervisors and workers in the workplace to comply with the appropriate work health and safety standards set forth for high-risk construction works and monitor and control measures required for the workplace. The SWMS must be simple enough for those who need to understand what has been planned to manage the risks and impose the control measures in order for the project to succeed.

What You Need to Include in a SWMS

A SWMS outlines a step-by-step process of how the job will be conducted. The job must be carried out in accordance with the SWMS.

When developing a SWMS for high-risk construction work (hrcw), it is important to:

  • Identify the work that is high risk construction work

  • Identifying hazards relating to high-risk construction work and the risks to health and safety.

  • Such hazards have relevant information considered to describe the measures to be implemented to control the risks, and

  • Describe how the relevant control measures are to be implemented, monitored and reviewed, e.g. worker carrying out duties consistently in accordance with the swms

The SWMS should be readily accessible to workers, including self-employed persons, working on the construction project and should be easily understood by workers, including those from non-English speaking backgrounds.

A SWMS should provide guidance on the health and safety measures to be used. There should be no statements requiring personnel to make a decision. For example, the direction “use necessary personal protective equipment” does not describe any of the controls. The controls should be clearly defined. 

Consultation with workers and their health and safety representative should be included in the SWMS drafting. If workers are not consulted at the planning stage, consultation should take place when the SWMS is first released to workers, for example, during induction training or after it has been reviewed, such as during workplace-specific training or a toolbox talk. 

Preparation of SWMS

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) that carries out high risk construction work must ensure a SWMS is prepared or has already been prepared by another person before commencement of the proposed work.

If there are multiple PCBU members, they must consult, cooperate and coordinate with one another in order to the greatest extent feasible. A PCBU is ideally situated to prepare the SWMS because it understands the work being done and the individuals doing it, and can ensure that the SWMS is implemented, maintained, and reviewed correctly.

Generic SWMS (Safe Work Method Statements)

A generic SWMS can be submitted by a business who carries out regular work activities. The content included in this form of SWMS can be optimised and managed over several years and can be shaped through consultation with a health and safety officer, employees, and PCBUs. Before a new business activity is undertaken, the SWMS must be reviewed to determine whether it is compliant with the intended high risk construction work or activity, and that it is relevant and up to date. 

FAQs about Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS)

It’s best practice to review any safety documentation on a regular basis to ensure it’s effective.  SWMS should be reviewed in conjunction with relevant control measures and risk registers. 

The review process should be carried out in consultation with workers (including contractors and subcontractors) who may be affected by the operation of the SWMS and their health and safety representatives who represented that work group at the workplace. This is an important step to ensure you consult affected workers during the review process.

  • When you are making any amendments or changes to the work method statement SWMS, the person conducting business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure:

  • All workers, contractors and subcontractors involved in high-risk construction work are advised of any changes and how they can access the updated SWMS. 

  • It’s important to share any updates of changes with the principal contractor and ensure they receive a copy of the latest SWMS.

  • All work procedures or systems updates should enable workers to consistently perform their duties aligned with the SWMS

  • All workers involved in high-risk construction work is provided with the tools, processes, information and instructions to assist them to understand and implement the updated SWMS

SWMS (safe working method statement) should be available and accessible until the high-risk construction work is completed.  Should you make any changes to the SWMS, ensure you keep a copy of all previous versions and clearly mark and store the updated version. 

In case of a notifiable incident on site relating to any high-risk construction work activities on site, the SWMS should be kept at the workplace for two years.

Workers should have access to the SWMS and must understand the hazards and risk controls noted on the SWMS so they can ensure the work environment is operating in accordance with the SWMS and adhering to safety laws in the relevant state or territory.

The Work Health and Safety Act and Regulations outlines layers of responsibility under the legislation. A PCBU (person conducting business or undertaking) must prepare a SWMS for high-risk construction work (hrcw) to ensure the risk control measures are implemented and adhered to on site.

A principal contractor is also responsible for obtaining a SWMS before any high-risk construction work projects start.

How Pillar Group Consulting Can Help

Pillar Group will act as your health and safety representative and walk you through all of the requirements for your Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) and ensure that your compliance with safety laws. We will guide you every step of the way through the process of developing and implementing your SWMS, consult with you and your workers, and manage all of the necessary processes, and deal with any potential issues. Our health and safety officers will carefully listen to any questions or concerns you may have and advise you as to the best way forward. 

Contact Us

Get in touch with us at 0419 539 280 and book your free health and safety assessment today!

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