Smart SWMS or Dumb SWMS


Smart SWMS or Dumb SWMS


I noticed recently an advertisement for an eleven (11) page safe work method statement (SWMS), which also proudly boasted initial and final risk ratings.

We at Safety Action have a “pet hate” for thoughtless behaviour which makes workplace safety documents unduly long or more complex than they need to be.

From our experience most SWMS, if properly constructed, can be contained in to one or two pages. If the task genuinely requires more than two pages, we generally break the task down to keep each SWMS to within two pages.

So why do so many, otherwise sensible, people end up making their safety instructions so complex and unusable in the field? Many just follow the crowd, even if they are wrong. An example of this is the inclusion of risk levels in SWMS. This is not a regulated requirement, and in practice serves no purpose. If you look at the handbook in your car glove box you should find a number of procedures (SWMS) e.g. changing a flat tyre or starting car in the event of a flat battery. None of these procedures published by reputable manufacturers include risk level at each step, because following the published procedure is designed to ensure it is done safely.

The legal requirements* for a compliant SWMS include stating:

  • Title of the task;
  • Hazards associated with the task;
  • Controls and how they are to be implemented.

* The harmonised WHS Reg. 299 and Vic OHS Reg. 5.1.5 specify the requirements for SWMS for high risk construction work, per above.

You will notice there is no regulated requirement for date, who prepared it, who approved it or initial or final risk levels for each phase of the task. The legislation leaves it to each organisation to determine their own document control process.

Safety Action Pty Ltd prepare customised SWMS and can train your team in how to develop & utilise SWMs with our safety leadership courses, which incorporates this and much more. Call T. 03 9690 6311 for a course outline and dates.

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