Safe work method statements

New health and safety laws require a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to provide documented evidence about how they will control exposure to risk of injury and illness when performing certain tasks.

A safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared by the builder for their employees, or by the subcontractor for their workers and themselves. A SWMS must be prepared for any high risk construction work and provides step-by-step procedures on how the work can be undertaken safely.

The SWMS should be prepared in consultation with those doing the work. Anyone involved in undertaking high risk construction work must also be familiar with all safety procedures outlined in the SWMS.

What are high risk construction activities?

High risk construction activities include any of the following work or activities:

  • Risk of a person falling more than 2 metres
  • Work on a telecommunication tower
  • Demolition of an element of a structure that is load-bearing or otherwise related to the physical integrity of the structure involves, or is likely to involve, the disturbance of asbestos
  • Involves  structural  alterations or repairs  that  require temporary support to prevent collapse
  • Work in or near a confined space
  • Work in or near a shaft, tunnel or trench with an excavated depth greater than 1.5 metres
  • The use of explosives
  • Work near pressurised gas distribution mains or piping
  • Work on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines
  • Work on or near energised electrical installations or services
  • Work in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere
  • Tilt-up or precast concrete
  • Work on, in or adjacent to a road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor that is in use by traffic other than pedestrians
  • Work in an area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant
  • Is carried out in an area in which there are artificial extremes of temperature
  • Work in or near water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning
  • Diving work.

SWMSs are also useful training and procedural tools for other types of work, and provide written evidence of how specific risks are being managed.

What information will the statement contain? 

The employer or subcontractor must detail how they will do the high risk work. The completed work method statement must be signed and dated by the employer or subcontractor and the builder before the work being detailed commences.

The SWMS must take into account the overall safety management plan, and also include the following information:

  • The high risk construction activity (i.e. working in a deep trench)
  • The employer’s or contractor’s ABN
  • The control measures to be used
  • The way the activity will be performed
  • How the control measures will be monitored and reviewed
  • Any relevant prescribed occupations.

Prescribed activities

Certificate holders for the prescribed activities of demolition work and asbestos removal must also prepare a SWMS. The statement must take into account the builder's construction workplace plan and also include:

  • The certificate number to perform the activity
  • Arrangements for appropriate training and supervision
  • Applicable requirements of AS 2601 – Demolition of Structures for demolition work
  • For asbestos removal, safe work procedures in accordance with the national codes of practice for the management and safe removal of asbestos.

Templates & training

Master Builders has a blank template available for members on eDocs that will help you complete a safe work method statement for the construction activity you undertake. 

If you have any questions on how to complete your safe work method statement please call the health and safety team on (07) 3225 6410.

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