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A SWMS or Safe Work Method Statement is a legal requirement that is completed before any high risk construction work takes place on site (for example, working at heights or working near traffic). 

A SWMS is one of the most common compliance documents you will find on a job site.  It documents any high risk activities that are taking place on a job site, breaks down the hazards associated with the activity, and what measures will be put in place to control these risks. 

Within a  Safe Work Method Statement, a Hierarchy of Controls system (see below) is used as a framework to control high risk activities.  It is a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks and it ranks risk controls from the highest level of protection and reliability through to the lowest and least reliable protection.

Hierarchy of Controls Safe Work Method Statement

The person who is carrying out the high risk work should ensure that a SWMS is properly prepared and that controls have been put in place to manage any risks to the health and safety of all workers.  A copy of each SWMS should be given to the principal contractor before any work starts. 

It is important to remember that, once a SWMS has been prepared, this does not mean it cannot be changed. In fact, if the nature of the high risk work changes at all, or additional risks are identified, such as visitors to site, work must stop immediately (or as soon as it is safe to do so) and the SWMS must be reviewed and updated before work can commence again. 

Your SWMS should break down the job activity into steps. Doing this will help ensure that the most logical process has been identified and all high risk construction work is completed safely.

Once the risks and hazards have been identified for each task, the person, or people completing the SWMS are required to document what will be done to control the risks.

Safe Work Method Statement high risk activity example:

In this example, the high risk construction work for the day involves moving formwork on and off site using a powered mobile plant. You have identified that one of the hazards and risks associated with this task is the potential for a worker to be struck by the powered mobile plant.  

The control measures put in place to eliminate or minimise this risk might include:

  • Setting up an exclusion zone during the loading/unloading process
  • Identify clear paths of travel for the plant and ensure a spotter is available during the loading/unloading process
  • All operators are to be fully qualified and appropriately trained in the task at hand

Once completed, worker/s are required to view and sign-off on the relevant SWMS before commencing work. It is the responsibility of the principal contractor to have relevant SWMS for all high-risk tasks available to the site’s work crew.

SWMS In Summary:

A Safe Work Method Statement must:

  • Identify the work that is ’high risk construction’ work;
  • Specify hazards relating to the high risk construction work, and risks to health and safety associated with those hazards; 
  • Outline the control measures to be put in place to control the risks; and 
  • Describe how these control measures will be rolled out, monitored and reviewed. 

Builder Assist have developed a range of industry compliant SWMS templates for those in the building and construction industry. Every SWMS template breaks down the job activity into logical steps and complies with the Work Health & Safety Act, Work Health & Safety Regulations and applicable Codes of Practice.  You can view the Work Health & Safety Regulators in your state or territory, by visiting https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/law-and-regulation/legislation.   You can also download each applicable Legislation, Codes of Practice, and references by clicking here.

SWMS Template

To purchase your own, instant downloadable SWMS template, simply visit https://www.builderassist.com.au/whs-ohs/safe-work-method-statements-swms3/ 

Don’t need a SWMS template, and not sure what documents and procedures you might need for your trade? No worries! Simply visit https://www.builderassist.com.au/trades-people-documentation/, where you can access Builder Assist’s instant downloads of document and procedure templates specific to your trade.