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May 17, 2022


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Persons conducting a business or undertaking in relation to the 18 high-risk construction work activities defined in the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 must complete a safe work method statement (SWMS). An SWMS is not required for 'work of a minor nature'. The Work Health and Safety (Construction Work Code of Practice) Approval 2014 outlines the requirements for SWMS.

The primary purpose of an SWMS is to enable supervisors, workers and any other persons at the workplace to understand the requirements that have been established to carry out high-risk construction work in a safe and healthy manner. It sets out the work activities in logical sequences and identifies hazards and describes control measures. Any activity, no matter how simple or complex can be broken down into a series of basic steps that will permit a systematic analysis of each part of the activity for hazards and potential accidents. The description of the process should not be so broad that it leaves out activities with the potential to cause accidents and prevents proper identification of the hazards nor is it necessary to go into the fine detail of the tasks. The aim of an SWMS is to:
  • Describe the activity or task to be undertaken;
  • Identify the resources, manpower, and skills associated with the task;
  • Assess and select control measures (as appropriate); and,
  • Systematically plan the activity so it can be completed efficiently and effectively.
An SWMS is classed as an administrative control and is used to support higher-order controls to eliminate or minimize risks to health and safety such as engineering controls. A SWMS is generally different from other documents that focus on specific tasks or processes, such as a job safety analysis or a safe operating procedure. An SWMS is not intended to be a procedure, rather it is a tool to help supervisors and workers confirm and monitor the control measures required at the workplace. One SWMS can be used for work that involves multiple high-risk construction work activities.


A contractor is engaged to work on a structure that is above 2 meters. Another contractor is engaged to carry out work using powered mobile plant such as a crane operation. Both contractors are required to prepare SWMS:
  • The first contractor must ensure an SWMS is prepared for the work that is being carried out above 2 meters.
  • The second contractor must ensure an SWMS is prepared for the work on the powered mobile plant.
In this case, the contractors may decide to prepare one SWMS to cover both types of high-risk construction work or they may decide to prepare separate SWMSs. If separate SWMSs are being prepared, consultation, coordination, and cooperation between the contractors must occur to the extent necessary to avoid inconsistencies and to ensure that each contractor is carrying the work out safely.

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