The Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is a regulatory requirement for high-risk worksites. But there’s a bit of confusion around just what they are, what they do, and why they’re important. Because they are regulatory requirements, many people wonder whether they need to get the professionalsinvolved, or whether simply following a SWMS example template is enough.
A SWMS provides everyone at a work site – the workers themselves, their supervisors, and anyone else that has a good reason to be there – with the information that they need to know about the potential hazards of the site, the high-risk work that will be carried out there, and what steps are being taken to mitigate that risk.
What a SWMS is NOT is a procedure manual. An SWMS will not have step-by-step instructions on procedure, task or operation. Rather, it’s an acknowledgement of risk and a statement of risk control. Generally speaking, the SWMS will operate in synch with the procedure documents – i.e. the procedure documents will be written as one of the risk mitigation activities outlined in the SWMS.
Who is responsible for preparing the SWMS?
SWMS need to be prepared by a Person Conducting a Business Undertaking (PCBU) for work that is considered High Risk Construction Work (HRCW) or any work involving energised electrical work.
If the worksite has a principle contractor then the SWMS needs to be managed by the principal contractor or the business that commissions or initiates the work. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to create it, but they are responsible for collecting the SWMS documents for the site together and ensuring that their guidelines are followed. It might well be, however, that the sub-contractor, as the agent “on the ground” is the one tasked with reviewing the site and producing the SWMS.
Who produces a SWMS?
Every work site is different, and therefore every SWMS will be different in-kind. However, there are templates that you can work from, such as those that NECA provide, and these have been drafted up by specialist lawyers with expertise in the creation of these documents.
With one of these templates, it is possible to create your own SWMS for the work site.
The SWMS should include the following information:
– The type of work being done.
– The health and safety hazards on the site.
– The risks that might result from those hazards.
– An explanation on how those hazards can either be eliminated completely or, otherwise, controlled and mitigated as far as possible.
– How those risk control measures will be implemented, managed, and reviewed by people on-site.
All of this information needs to be prepared in consultation with the people that will be conducting the work, and the final document needs to be easy to read so that each person on-site can check and work from it.
This document should be considered “living” and can change as the circumstances on site should change. This should be managed by those on site, but the principle contractor should take ultimate responsibility for the SWMS being kept current.
You might want to get your lawyer, specialising in health & safety, to review the document, however, thanks to the template approach of NECA, you won’t need to engage a lawyer each time you are operating on a site that requires a SWMS.
For more information on SWMS templates, how we produce them, and how you can stay on the right side of your regulatory and compliance requirements, contact NECA today.