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Safe work method statements

A safe work method statement needs to be prepared before any high risk work is carried out.

When do I need a safe work method statement?

If you are a person conducting a business or undertaking you need to make sure a safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared or has already been prepared by someone else before any high risk construction work is carried out.

The definition of ‘High risk construction work’ under the new Work Health and Safety (General) Regulations 2022 is slightly different from that under the Occupational Safety and Health regulations and includes work that:

  • involves a risk of a person falling more than 2m;
  • is carried out on a telecommunications tower;
  • involves 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 require collapse;
  • is carried out in or near a confined space;
  • is carried out in or near:
    • a shaft or trench with an excavation depth greater than 1.5m; or
    • a tunnel;
  • involves the use of explosives;
  • is carried out on or near pressurised gas distribution mains or piping;
  • is carried out on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines;
  • is carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services;
  • is carried out in an area that may have a contaminated flammable atmosphere;
  • involves tilt-up or pre-cast concrete;
  • is carried out on, in or adjacent to a road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor that is in use by traffic other than pedestrians;
  • is carried out 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;
  • is carried out in or near water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning;
  • involves diving work.

What needs to be in a SWMS?

A SWMS must:

  • identify the work that is high risk construction work;
  • state the hazards relating to the high risk construction work and the risks associated with those hazards;
  • describe the measures to be implemented to control the risks;
  • describe how the control measures are to be:
    • implemented,
    • monitored, and
    • reviewed.
  • take into account all relevant matters including:
    • circumstances at the workplace that may affect the way in which the high risk construction work is carried out, and
    • if the high risk construction work is carried out in connection with a construction project – the WHS management plan that has been prepared for the workplace.
  • be set out in a way that is readily accessible and understandable to persons who use it. A copy must also be available for inspection.

You also need to review SWMS and, as necessary, revise them.

How long does a PCBU need to keep a copy of a SWMS?

Until the high risk construction work to which it relates is complete.

However if a notifiable incident occurs in connection with the high risk construction work, you need to keep the statement for at least 2 years after the incident occurs.

What happens if the SWMS is not being followed?

You need to ensure that the work is stopped immediately or as soon as it is safe to do so. Work can only start again in accordance with the SWMS.

Does a copy of a SWMS need to be given to the principal contractor?

Yes, if the high risk construction work will be carried out on a construction project that involves construction work where 5 or more persons are, or are likely to be, working at the same time.

The person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) carrying out high risk construction work, must, before the high risk construction work commences give the principal contractor a copy of the SWMS.

To find out more, contact HIA's Workplace Services team

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