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Safe Work Method Statements; What are they and what do they do?

Hi all, Today I want to share some info about Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) for high-risk construction work, as there has been a lot of discussion lately.

A SWMS is so much more than a set of papers or an app; it is a record of conditions on site and how they are managed, and how to keep everyone safe so they go home uninjured.

I hear a lot of confusion from business owners on what they are required to provide in the way of records of hazard and risk identification, and the method of controls needed for performing the work safely.

In a nutshell, there are 18 elements or tasks that require a SWMS, as listed below (From SafeWork Australia)

High-risk construction work that :

1. Involves risk of a person falling more than 2 metres (Note: in some jurisdictions this is 3 metres)

2. Involves work on a telecommunication tower

3. involves demolition of an element of a structure that is load bearing

4. involves, or is likely to involve, disturbing asbestos

5. involves structural alteration or repair that requires temporary support to prevent collapse

6. is carried out in or near a confined space

7. is carried out in or near a shaft or trench deeper than 1.5 m or a tunnel

8. involves the use of explosives

9. is carried out on or near pressurised gas mains or piping

10. is carried out on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines

11. is carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services

12. is carried out in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere

13. involves tilt-up or precast concrete elements

14. is carried out on, in or adjacent to a road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor in use by traffic other than pedestrians

15. is carried out in an area of a workplace where there is any movement of powered mobile plant

16. is carried out in areas with artificial extremes of temperature

17. is carried out in or near water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning

18. involves diving work.

Very basic principles of constructing a compliant SWMS even from a filled template.

  1. Do a thorough site hazard identification before starting the job using a Site Risk Assessment.

  2. Consult with your work team and other businesses affected by your work (e.g. subbies, or crane operator companies) for how to control the hazards by elimination, substitution or the other methods in the Hierarchy of Control.

  3. The Risk Matrix is a subjective analysis of the severity of a hazard, the risk of it happening, and the consequences if it does.

  4. With the Risk Matrix, one important point to consider is that the Likelihood of an incident happening will change with the correct controls in place, but the Consequences should it occur will very rarely change. e.g., you can put a barrier in front of a window to prevent access to falling out, but if you climbed over the barrier, the consequence of falling will still be the same.

  5. Adjust the SWMS document to reflect that particular work place, adding the details such as PPE, training, safety equipment, Safe Work Procedures, SDS etc. and ensure the controls are put in place before starting the job. Everyone signs off that controls have been put in place and they understand how to do the job safely before starting work.

  6. Regular review and communication of changes. This means a daily Risk assessment or after a workplace change or new hazard introduced (e.g., lightning storm, or incident occurs halting work), and adjustment of the SWMS with sign off.

So if you would like help with your SWMS and how to understand more about the process, check my calendar and book a time to give me a free 15 minute discovery call to see if I can assist you.



CC Safety

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