What is a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)?
A Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS), sometimes referred to as a Work Method Statement (WMS) or Safe Work Method (SWM), is a document that covers:
- An overview of the High Risk Construction Work (HRCW) activities conducted at a workplace
- Hazards that could arise from these activities
- The safety measures in place to manage and control associated risks
In the context of a SWMS, a hazard is something that is, or may be, in a work environment with the potential to cause harm to a person, including injury, illness or death. For each hazard, the risk is the likelihood of it causing harm to a person. A control measure is an action, safety device, work process, or system to mitigate that risk or eliminate the hazard.
Control measures are classified based on their efficacy under the Hierarchy of Control, and a SWMS itself would be considered an ‘administrative’ control.
What are High Risk Construction Work (HRCW) activities?
There are 19 high risk construction work (HRCW) activities defined in the WHS Regulations that require the use of a SWMS. These can include works conducted where there is a risk of a worker falling more than 2 metres, work carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services, and more. For a full list of these activities, visit the Safe Work Australia website.
The preparation, keeping, compliance to, and review of SWMS are duties that a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) in the construction industry must follow. These are in addition to the duties prescribed under the model WHS Act.
Who Should Prepare a SWMS for HRCW?
The person responsible for carrying out the HRCW is best placed to prepare the SWMS in consultation with the workers who will be directly engaged to do the work. Generally, this means a SWMS is prepared by the builder for their workers, or by the subcontractor for their workers and themselves. The PCBU may not have the necessary skills to prepare a SWMS for a HRCW activity, hence the subcontractor engaged to do the work must prepare the SWMS and submit to the PCBU for review. There are checklists available for a PCBU to check items are on the SWMS.
Practical guidance regarding how to achieve the standards of health, safety and welfare required under the model WHS Act and Regulations can be found in the model Code of Practice for Construction Work.
Free SWMS Template for Cm3 Contractors
All contractors on Cm3 are given access to a free SWMS template and process document to assist in the documentation and implementation of safe work practices in their day-to-day work. Cm3’s Assessors are available to assist contractors undergoing their WHS assessment with getting their policies and procedures around their HRCW activities in line with their legislative obligations and client requirement.