SWMS – Safe Work Method Statements

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With an average of 35 workers being seriously injured every day, the building and construction sector in Australia has a high profile when it comes to occupational health and safety hazards hence the introduction of SWMS.

Whether it is heavy lifting or carrying, working at height, working in and around vehicles, equipment and machinery or working near electricity, projects within the sector can involve many dangers. SWMS are designed to cover all areas.

When managing these, safe work method statement (SWMS) are important tools. These documents outline any high-risk activities within a workplace, hazards arising out of these and control measures which will be adopted to manage these risks. Under OHS legislation in place throughout various states and territories, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) within the building sector must prepare a SWMS before commencing any of 18 specific high-risk construction activities.

Detailed information about SMWSs as they apply to building and construction is available from an information sheet provided by Save Work Australia. Download the information sheet.


Here are some basic facts about the documents:

• A safe work method statement (SWMS) is a document which outlines high risk activities which are to be carried out at a workplace, the hazards arising from these and the measures to be implemented in order to control the relevant dangers.

• A SWMS is different from other documents which focus on specific processes, such as a Job Safety Analysis or a Safe Operating Procedure. An SWMS is not a procedure but rather a tool to help supervisors and workers confirm and monitor the control measures required on site.

• Any person carrying on a business or undertaking (PCBU) in building and construction must prepare a SWMS prior to commencing any of 18 activities which are considered to be high-risk construction work activities as defined under Work Health and Safety legislation.

• SWMSs are not needed for work of a minor nature.

• The documents must:

(a) identify the work that is high-risk construction work

(b) specify hazards relating to the work

(c) describe the measures to be implemented and control the risk and

(d) describe how control measures are to be implemented, monitored and reviewed.

• Principal contractors on projects worth more than $250,000 must make reasonable steps to obtain SWMS in relation to high-risk construction work performed by subcontractors.

• Generic SWMS are not encouraged and may not meet WHS requirements where the fail to adequately account for the site-specific context of relevant dangers. However, one SWMS can be prepared to cover multiple tasks provided it takes into account the hazards and risks of each workplace.

• SWMS should be monitored for compliance and reviewed if necessary as the project evolves

• The SWMS should ideally be kept at the site of the high-risk activities or at least must be kept at a location where it can be delivered to the workplace quickly

• A SWMS should be short and not overly complicated

• A SWMS must be easily understood, including (where relevant) by workers from non-English speaking backgrounds


High-risk construction activities include:

  1. working at a level higher than two metres
  2. work which is likely to involve disturbing asbestos
  3. work near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines
  4. tilt-up or precast concrete elements
  5. working in areas with artificial temperature extremes
  6. work on a telecommunications tower
  7. temporary load bearing support or structural alterations repairs
  8. use of explosives
  9. work in or near electrical installations or services
  10. work next to roads, railways lines or shipping lanes
  11. work in or near water or other liquids that could involve drowning risk
  12. demolition of load bearing structure
  13. work in or near confined spaces
  14. work in or near pressurised gas mains or pipes
  15. work in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable area
  16. work in an area with movement of powered mobile plant
  17. diving work


Read the full article as posted at Sourceable


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