safe work method statement (SWMS)


Definition - What does safe work method statement (SWMS) mean?

A safe work method statement (SWMS) is a statement that is used as a risk-control measure for certain forms of high-risk work, particularly in the construction and mining industries.

The precise information required for an SWMS may vary depending on the jurisdiction, and on whether the SWMS is being prepared as part of a regulatory or workplace policy requirement. In general, an SWMS contains information on the nature of the hazards involved in a given task, the safety controls used to reduce the risk created by those hazards, and the method of implementing each safety control. In addition, it details the date the work will be performed, the person responsible for ensuring the work is completed safely (e.g., the site manager), and the workers consulted during the creation of the SWMS.

Safeopedia explains safe work method statement (SWMS)

Safe work method statements are primarily associated with work done in the Australian construction industry, although the term may also be used in other industries and jurisdictions. Outside of Australia, similar work statements may be utilized under slightly different names; for example, the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (Canada) recommends the use of “safe job procedures statements”.

When used in an Australian context, an SWMS is legally required for any work that is considered “High-Risk Construction Work” (HRCW) under the law. As SWMS requirements are put forward by individual Australian states, their specific requirements may vary somewhat between states. No national legislation governs the use of SWMS; however, individual state OHS laws related to SWMS are generally harmonized according to SafeWork Australia’s model Workplace Health and Safety Act.

Australian legislation recognizes 19 different construction activities as being HRCW, including work at height, work with explosives, and work in confined spaces. An SWMS must be prepared before commencing any high-risk work, and all individuals must review the applicable SWMS before starting high-risk work. If work is not being performed in accordance with the SWMS, it must be halted immediately or at the nearest safe opportunity.

An SWMS must be a site-and-work specific document, and thus cannot be reused across multiple projects. The goals of the SWMS include ensuring that everyone on the worksite has the same understanding of the risks involved and that everyone knows how to work in a way that mitigates them. Because an SWMS must list the names of the workers, supervisors and principal contractors who are responsible for overseeing compliance with the terms of the SWMS, its use establishes a clear chain-of-responsibility should any safety incidents occur.

This definition was written in the context of Standards
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