Safe Working Methods Statement (SWMS): Everything You Need To Know
The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety defines an SWMS as a document which outlines high-risk work and hazards. It also stipulates the control measures put in place to manage these risks and hazards. Any organization wishing to commence with high-risk construction work is required to submit the SWMS to the principal contractor. The principal contractor then reviews it to ensure that the site will be safe through the enactment of standard operating procedures.
The SWMS document has to be prepared before the project commences. Multiple parties including the principal contractor, sub-contractors, project managers, the workers, and any other person involved in the project have to take part in its preparation. This helps them understand the document as well as what is required of them in the implementation of risk control as the project moves along.
Normally, an SWMS is developed once a risk assessment exercise has been completed. This enables the developers to come up with a logical sequence on how the work will be carried out. It also helps them come up with controls and precautions for each step of the project.
Although SWMS statements were previously used in the construction industry, they have been adopted in practically all day-to-day work operations throughout Australia. However, the WHS Act only requires it to be used in high-risk construction work.
Are Safe Working Methods Statements the same as Job Safety Analysis?
Most people confuse SWMS with JSA but the two are quite different. JSA is also a form of risk assessment document which acts as a step-by-step guide on how tasks will be carried out safely. While there’s no prescribed format on how a JSA should be, it has three main components which include:-
- The tasks – which is a step-by-step guide on basic activities
- Hazards – which is a list of potential risks or hazards during each step of the outlined tasks
- Control measures – comprehensive instructions on how to safely carry out each task by controlling each of the identified hazards
Other than the employers’ duty of care which ensures that employees are competent and trained, there’s no legal requirement which requires employers to have a JSA document. The difference between the two is that SWMS is a legal requirement for all high-risk construction works.
What to consider when coming up with an SWMS document
The following will help you draft an SWMS document:-
- Consultation – you need to have everyone involved when gathering information on what you should include on your SWMS document. Making everyone feel involved increases their likelihood of implementing what’s in it.
- Continuous evaluation and reviewing – an SWMS document is meant to reduce or eradicate accidents during the project. As it is prepared before the project commences, regular monitoring is essential to address any loopholes.
- Conciseness – an SWMS should be clear and concise. This makes it easier for users to understand what’s required of them.
- Acknowledgement – each contractor and worker needs to acknowledge that they have read and comprehended the content in your SWMS.
- Schedule time for spontaneous inspections – carrying out random checks every once in a while to ensure that workers are implementing what’s laid down on your SWMS.
The Importance of SWMS
SWMS documents play a critical role in keeping you, your contractors, sub-contractors, and employees safe. They are a pivotal part of any site’s occupational health and safety protocols. It helps hold both the employer and the employee accountable in ensuring that each task is carried out according to the processes and procedures outlined in the document. Any task that is not being carried out according to the SWMS, it must be halted immediately.
When preparing SWMS statements, employers can identify and control any workplace health and safety hazards. Employees need to familiarize themselves with the SWMS protocols relevant to their particular workplace.
How Induct For Work Can Help
SWMS documents can either be handwritten or generated and stored digitally. For organisations that need to complete SWMS documents regularly, completing the statements manually is not only time-consuming, but there’s an inherent risk of damaging or losing the hard copies.
Induct for Work is an online induction tool which you can use to disseminate contractor induction documents. It also collects all the information from your contractors including SMWS documents to ensure their compliance when they are working on your site. Induct for Work also helps in the collection of other documents such as:-
- Insurances and licenses
- Proof of training
- Working permits
- Emergency contact details
- Payment details
This helps cut down on the time you would spend following up with your contractor on such documents. The platform will also notify you should any of the documents be due for renewal.
You can incorporate your SWMS among your online induction documents on Induct for Work. This ensures that each worker and contractor understands how they can safely carry out their work. You can gauge their comprehension through quizzes even before they turn up on your site.
If you are in the construction industry, you are bound to move on to another project once you complete the one at hand. A new construction project often implies a new team, a new location as well as a set of different circumstances even for a similar task. As your SWMS document is available online, you can always edit and update it to reflect these changes.