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Definitions (3)

What is a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)?
also known as WMS or JSA (Job Safety Analysis)

A SWMS is an explanation of all steps that need to be completed on a job, all steps.  From arriving on-site, unloading the vehicle, checking the workplace, carrying out the job, clearing the workplace, loading the vehicle and leaving site.  Its purpose is to show that the people who are carrying out the work have thought through the whole process, assessed any risks involved and taken suitable measures to minimise the risk to themselves, other people and properties.
SWMS is also known as a Safe Operating Procedure or Job Safety Analysis.

Who must complete a SWMS?
Anybody who:

  • Build or constructs anything on-site
  • Uses plant or machinery (forklift, boomlift, scissor lift, crane, tilt tray etc.)
  • Manually handles weights over 25kg
  • Requires welding, grinding or other ‘hot work’
  • Uses equipment that makes excessive noise (jackhammers, compressors etc.)
  • Carries out work in a confined space
  • Any job that requires dangerous substances or chemicals, in which case a MSDS (materials safety data sheet) must also be supplied.

Who writes the SWMS?
Usually the work supervisor or contractor.  However, it is important that this is done in consultation with those who actually carry out the job.  This will give a more complete insight into the various steps involved in the job and the hazards that may be encountered while performing the job.  This will also encourage ownership and commitment to the safe working methods by those doing the job.
A valid SWMS must be on the organisation’s letterhead, showing the name and registered office address of the organisation. In addition, each SWMS must carry the signature of a senior management representative of the organisation and the date it was signed.

At the very least SWMS must include:

  • a description of the work to be undertaken,
  • foreseeable hazards associated with the work
  • the step by step sequence in doing the work
  • the safety controls that will be used to minimise these hazards,
  • all precautions to be taken to protect health and safety,
  • identification of all health and safety law, standards or codes applicable to the work,

For major works, the following details need to be added:

  • the names and qualifications of those who will supervise the work and inspect and approve work area, work methods, protective measures, plant, equipment and power tools, a description of what training is given to people doing the work,
  • identification of plant and equipment needed on site to do the job eg ladders, scaffolds, electrical leads, welding equipment etc.,
  • details of the inspection and maintenance checks that will be, or have been, carried out on the equipment listed.

The WorkCover Authority’s Guidelines for writing work method statements in plain English (1998) also sets out a SWMS form which is acceptable under current legislation. Major contractors should refer to this WorkCover guide for assistance in the production of SWMS.

More detail about SWMS can be found in this WorkCover publication: Subby Pack