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Using Safe Work Method Statements in Western Australia

If you are a main contractor you have an obligation to make sure that, as far as practicable, each person identified by you as having day-to-day, on-site control of high-risk construction work done, or to be done at the site, gives you a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS).

To meet the obligation of the SWMS you will need to identify each person in charge of high-risk construction work and make sure that they give you a SWMS for that work. These persons also have an obligation to give you the required SWMS. But if you are unable to identify any of these persons undertaking the work, then you are obliged to prepare the necessary SWMS for this work. 

Once prepared, you also have an obligation to make sure that the work is carried out in accordance with the SWMS and that the SWMS is kept up-to-date if the work changes for any reason. 

When do I need a SWMS? 

You will need to make sure that a SWMS has been prepared whenever any of the high-risk construction work listed below is carried out. As far as practicable, the SWMS must be in place before the high-risk construction work starts. 

‘High-risk construction work’ in this case denotes construction work: 

  • involving a risk of a person falling two metres or more 
  • involving demolition 
  • involving removing or disturbing asbestos
  • involving alteration to a structure that requires the structure to be temporarily supported to prevent its collapse
  • on or adjacent to roads or railways that are in use
  • where there is movement of powered mobile plant
  • involving a confined space
  • involving excavation to a depth of more than 1.5 metres
  • relating to tunnels
  • involving the use of explosives
  • on or near pressurised gas pipes (including distribution mains)
  • on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines
  • on or near energised electrical installations and lines (whether overhead or underground)
  • in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere
  • involving tilt-up or precast concrete
  • in an area where there are artificial extremes of temperature
  • in, over or adjacent to water or other liquids if there is a risk of drowning
  • on telecommunications towers
  • relating to diving.

What needs to be in a SWMS?

The SWMS must be in writing and, as far as practicable, contain the following information:

  • Each high-risk construction work activity that has hazards to which a person is likely to be exposed
  • The risk of injury or harm to a person resulting from any such hazards
  • The safety measures to be implemented to reduce the risk(s), including the control measures to be applied to the work activity or hazard(s)
  • A description of the equipment used in the high-risk construction work activity
  • Any qualifications and/or training required to enable people to do the work safely.

What happens if the SWMS is not being followed?

As the main contractor you have an obligation to make sure that there are measures in place so that, as far as practicable, the work is carried out in accordance with the relevant SWMS.

If the work is not carried out in accordance with the SWMS the main contractor must stop the work (when safe to do so) and make sure that it does not resume until the SWMS is complied with.

All SWMS protocols must be kept at least until the construction work is completed. 

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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