Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)

Definition - What does Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) mean?

A Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is a form of safety statement used within the construction industry in Australia. It outlines all high-risk activities that will be carried out within a given workplace, as well as the associated hazards and the controls put in place to mitigate the risk to as low as reasonably practicable. These high-risk activities are formally referred to as high-risk construction work (HRCW).

Under Australian health and safety regulations, the creation of an SWMS is a legal requirement for any construction project featuring high-risk activities, and it must be prepared before work on the project commences. Furthermore, the SWMS must be updated and revised to reflect any new high-risk activities that are added to the project after the creation of the initial SWMS.

Safeopedia explains Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)

The preparation of an SWMS is a requirement under Australia’s OHS Regulations 2017, and it applies to both employers and the self-employed. When there are multiple employers engaging in HRCW on a single site (i.e. multiple contractors), each employer is obligated to establish the creation of an SWMS for all employees and subcontractors, as well as anyone else affected by the work, before commencing work on the project.

HRCW is composed of 19 different types of work, such as work-at-height, trench work, work near electrical equipment, and work near telecommunication lines. One of the primary purposes of an SWMS is to ensure that the contractor has undertaken a workplace-hazard risk assessment of the HRCW he or she will be performing and has prepared appropriate risk controls and policies in response to those risks. As such, it is not legally acceptable for contractors to use a generic SWMS that simply provides a list of common hazards. An SWMS must be site- and project-specific.

An SWMS is usually created by individual subcontractors who are familiar with the work they will be undertaking, as well as the risk controls that will be put in place to protect against its associated hazards. However, the SWMS may be created by the primary contractor on behalf of the subcontractors if a formal agreement has been made for this to happen. This agreement must be undertaken in consultation with the subcontractor’s employees and any health and safety representative they may have. In all cases, the primary contractor must review the SWMS to approve that it is adequate before work is allowed to commence.

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