Need to know: Your safe work method statement

Safe work method statement time for worker

The team of industry experts at Rapid Solutions, including our Technical Officer, is receiving regular calls from our clients about the growing need for a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) on each site attended.

These are legal documents that outline a workplace’s high-risk activities, the hazards attached to them and the safety measures a business applies to mitigate those risks.

Increasingly, commercial companies are requesting SWMS’s from businesses providing high-risk services to them such as pest/weed services, building inspections, commercial cleaning, etc. The reason for this is to meet their obligations under the Work Health & Safety Act, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, and food safety regulations.

A SMWS is required for high risk work activities. It is generally specific to each particular business and the activities/services they provide.

Rapid Solutions does not provide SWMS’s, but we are happy to point you in the right direction.

Why a SWMS is important

Given your commercial customers will increasingly ask for your SWMS, every property services sector business conducting high-risk activities should prepare one. Or, if necessary, several versions if your activities are diverse.

This is important even if you are not receiving requests for a SWMS. Should a mishap occur with a customer, including residential customers, the SWMS will support that you are safety conscious and have safety procedures in place (provided your work is outlined in your SWMS).

Authorities such as SafeWork NSW will investigate your work practices should an incident occur. Having a SWMS ready to provide them is a very good step in defending your position if you need to.

Structure of a Safe Work Method Statement

We’ve taken the time to provide a list of content you will need in your SWMS:

  • Your company name and contact details
  • The customer and site details (this can be an area you fill out for each customer)
  • A statement that your workforce was consulted in developing it (ideally the names of those involved and date it was developed) and each staff member has been given a copy
  • A risk rating scale applied to each hazard for an activity e.g. 1 Low risk, 2 Moderate risk, 3 High risk, 4 Acute risk
  • A section listing the activities covered by the SWMS e.g. general pest control, termite treatments, weed control, carpet cleaning, methamphetamine testing, tree lopping, etc
  • For each activity provide a list of PPE equipment. Or, the list may be common to all the activities and instead you include notes on when and where they are used
  • A list of potential hazards for these activities e.g. exposure to hazardous chemicals, falls from a ladder, slip or trip, etc
  • Beside each hazard include a column for rating the risk as 1 to 4, then add a column for stating the control actions in place to reduce that risk. Then add another column to re-rate the risk as 1 to 4, depending on the extent the risk has been reduced by the control actions. This will demonstrate that after the control measures are in place some risks reduce from, say, 3 High risk to 1 Low risk
  • Outline routine procedures that help you mitigate risks. For example:
    – Vehicles cleaned and regularly mechanically maintained
    – Equipment maintained and checked regularly
    – Chemicals stored and carried according to hazardous chemical regulations
    – Chemicals selection process ensures usage of the least hazardous that will effectively do the job
    – Labels read with every usage
    – Safety Data Sheet (SDS), previously called a Material Safety Data Sheet, read and carried in vehicles plus made available for customers
  • Describe the emergency procedure you would take for personal injury, injury to animals and the environment
  • Include that an appropriate first aid kit is carried and maintained, as well as details of first aid training and contacts for Emergency Services and the Poison Information Service
  • For those using chemicals, note that a spill kit is carried at all times and well maintained

Make your checks

Further, you should install a self-checking or monitoring process to ensure the Safe Work Method Statement is being followed by your team.

Note that a SWMS created for a particular customer should be kept until work for that customer is completed e.g. a regular service commercial customer, until they cancel.

Should an incident occur, the SWMS and a work incident report must be kept for at least two years.

Another important step in protecting yourself against claims that your services have not been conducted appropriately is to take out professional indemnity and general liability insurance. Don’t leave yourself open to the cost of defending your business against a claim, and potentially having to pay out damages.

Interested to know more about SWMS’s? Contact your state or territory’s workplace healthy and safety regulator. You may also find what you need on the Safe Work Australia website or from SAI Global (which markets professional Safe Work Method Statements developed by Safety Culture).