Before carrying out any high-risk work, people conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) are required to prepare a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS).

What is a SWMS?

A safe work method statement (SWMS) is a document that outlines the high-risk construction work to be carried out at a workplace, and how risks are to be minimised throughout the lifespan of the project. A SWMS should be prepared before the work commences and should be regularly reviewed to ensure the job remains compliant with the method statement.

A SWMS should clearly:

  • Identify the work
  • Specify the hazards
  • Describe the measures to be implemented to control risk
  • Describe how the measures are to be implemented, monitored and reviewed

A SWMS should be short and succinct and focus on specific hazards and risks rather than broad sweeping outlines. A SWMS must be easily understood by all workers, especially workers from non-English speaking backgrounds.

One SWMS can be used to cover a variety of tasks. For example, work that involves scaffolding, rigging and the use of explosives may occur in the same construction job, and may be covered by one SWMS. The most important thing is that the SWMS is easily understood by all involved in the construction work.

What is high risk work?

High risk work is defined by legislation, and includes (but is not limited to) work that involves:

  • Risk of falling more than 2 metres
  • Disturbance of asbestos
  • Use of temporary support systems designed to prevent structural collapse
  • Use of explosives
  • Tilt up or pre-cast concrete
  • Risk of drowning
  • Work carried out in or near a confined space
  • Work carried out in or near shafts or trenches with an excavation depth of 1.5 metres or more, or in or near tunnels

What happens if the SWMS is not prepared, or is not followed?

If a SWMS is not prepared, the work cannot commence. If the work does not adhere to the SWMS that has been prepared for the project in question, work must stop immediately and only recommence in accordance with the SWMS.

Need help?

If you have any questions in relation to the above or any other NSW building and construction requirements, contact our offices or submit an online enquiry below.