What is a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)?

A SWMS is a document which provides information that is required when undertaking High Risk Construction Work. High Risk Construction Work involves:

  • work carried out in area with artificial extremes of temperature
  • a risk of falling more than 2 metres
  • building or demolition work that involve structural alterations or repairs to a structure that requires support to prevent collapse
  • the demolition of a load bearing part of a structure or the demolition of any part of a structure that is likely to affect its physical integrity
  • asbestos, explosives or driving work

It also includes work that is carried out in, on or near any:

  • confined space
  • shaft or trench with an excavated depth greater than 1.5 metres or a tunnel
  • pressurised gas distribution mains or piping
  • chemical or refrigerant lines
  • energized electrical installations or services
  • area that may have contaminated or flammable atmosphere
  • road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor that is in use by traffic other than pedestrians
  • area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant
  • water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning.

A SWMS identifies the High Risk Construction Work activities which will be carried out on the work site. It also considers what safety measures should be implemented in order to reduce any hazards caused by carrying out such work activities.

A SWMS is also a helpful tool that can be used by business owners, supervisors and workers to confirm and monitor the control measures required at a construction site or workplace. A SWMS must be prepared by the person responsible for carrying out the High Risk Construction Work activities prior to carrying out any work.

What should a SWMS include?

SWMS should:

  • identify the activities that constitute High Risk Construction Work
  • specify the hazards relating to such activities
  • describe the measures that will be taken to control the risks; and also how such measures will be implemented, monitored and reviews.

What are the Duties of the Principal Contractor?

A Principal Contractor is required to:

  • collect SWMS from any contractors carrying out High Risk Construction Work
  • if no SWMS has been completed, arrange for the document to be prepared by the appropriate contractor
  • follow the WHS Regulations in regards to the specific arrangements for collecting, assessing, monitoring and reviewing SWMS.

What are the duties of individuals carrying out the work?

Individuals that are carrying out High Risk Construction Work are required to:

  • prepare and complete a SWMS prior to commencing works
  • ensure that the SWMS can be effectively followed by workers
  • provide the Principal Contractor with a copy of the completed SWMS
  • carry out work in accordance with the SWMS
  • review and revise the SWMS
  • ensure that the SWMS is accessible to all workers
  • make sure that the SWMS is kept on the work site


It is important to actively involve workers in the development of SWMS in order to ensure that they understand how to implement and maintain risk controls. For more information contact the team at The Quinn Group on (02) 9223 9166 or submit an online enquiry.