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SWMS - Deficiencies

Posted by Andy Perry on 4 May 2021

Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) are generally used in the construction industry for High-Risk Construction Work (HRCW). The relevant Health and Safety Regulations clearly outline what is classified as HRCW. Most circumstances SWMS are pre-prepared that seeks to address a range of hazards that will potentially be encountered by workers during a particular work activity.

It should be noted that a generic SWMS is not acceptable unless further work is done to make it 'site-specific'. This can be done by reviewing and revising it as necessary with regard to its suitability for the specific environment and circumstances in which the HRCW will be performed.

A SWMS is a safety planning tool that identifies the hazards and risks of HRCW and documents the control measures necessary to manage those risks. The SWMS should describe to workers in clear terms how risks from the work will be effectively controlled to enable the work to be done safely.

Effective control measures are not:

  • Be Careful!
  • Make sure!
  • Lookout for!
  • Be aware of!

It is a timely reminder that employers or persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure where there is a risk to health or safety, first seek to eliminate that risk so far as is reasonably practicable. If a risk cannot be eliminated, it must be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable, by implementing the hierarchy of control methodology that can be obtained from International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 31000, Risk management - Guidelines.

Furthermore, the relevant Health and Safety Regulations clearly describe, the SWMS must sufficiently describe measures to control those risks, how the risk control measures are to be implemented and is set out and expressed in a way that is readily accessible and comprehensible to the persons who use it.

Author:Andy Perry

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