What Is a Safe Work Method Statement?

A safe work method statement (SWMS) is a helpful document that outlines the high-risk activities and processes carried out within the workplace. It also details the possible hazards stemming from these activities and what countermeasures the establishment utilizes to control their occurrence. A single SWMS can serve multiple purposes for work that poses various risks in projects. High-risk construction work (HRCW) officially refers to the high-risk activities in the statement. In Australia, creating the SWMS is a sanctioned requirement for all construction projects in the country that deal with high-risk activities. It must also be available before any construction work begins. An SWMS undergoes continuous revisions and updating to incorporate additional activities of the project that are high-risk after the initial SWMS document. The SWMS is more than a procedure; it is a tool that helps supervisors and workers to monitor the control measures in the workplace.

According to the news release of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics dating November 2020, a total of 2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses comes from the report by private industry employers. The estimations come from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illness (SOII).

Components of a Safe Work Method Statement

Safe work method statements are necessary and prevalent in the construction industry. As such, there are various formats for an SWMS document. There are essential elements that must be present in every safe word method statement to guarantee compliance with statutory laws. The format of the SWMS document varies, but each section and element is comparable to others despite the construction scope of work.

Organizational and project details: As safe work method statements are formal documents that must incorporate proper labeling. All SWMS documents consist of significant aspects of the organization, along with the corresponding project specifications. Indicating this information allows the readers who refer and investigate the document’s origins, individuals responsible, and the project’s scope of work.Additional safe work method statement details: The SWMS document is rarely a one-person endeavor. It involves various people working together concerning detailed reviews, recommendations, and consultations. A well-written SWMS document outlines a complete list of individuals who worked and participated in the project up until the project’s end date.Project training and instructions: In high-risk construction activities and projects, workers or contractors working on site must be knowledgeable and have experience and training, as each project is unique. The safety work method statement must provide sufficient training and instructions regarding the activity to reduce mistakes and problems, and most importantly, diminish the possibility of injuries and risks to protect the individuals within the worksite.Resources and trades: The particular section of the SWMS document intends to limit the involved individuals in the projects and their activities. The initial goal of the resources and trade portion is to institute that not all individuals working on the project engage in all activities. The SWMS documents also pattern from particular trades.Equipment and plant use: To decrease the possibility of incidents and maintain a safe work environment, selecting the proper location and equipment is necessary. Creating a bulleted list of possible equipment, tools, and areas needed to make it easier to establish, execute and finish the activities.Necessary emergency procedures: More often than not, SMWS documents identify and establish safety plans. It is a vital part of the safe work method statement that details activity-specific or site-specific emergency requirements.Personal Protective Equipment: Personal protective equipment or PPE is another critical component of managing the safety and security of individuals working on a particular worksite or activity. The SWMS document must provide a list of expected PPE in performing various construction projects. Applicaple legislation and codes: In any construction project, the SMWS serves as a legal document that undergoes the workplace inspection and review of state inspectors and auditors. It must also contain the necessary and applicable codes, legislations, and statutes in achieving the project’s outcome, identify these regulations that correspond to understanding implied legal obligations, and these references are essential to producing the SWMS document.Risk score criteria: Workers and managers must firmly perceive the basic hazard and risk scoring during a project. As such, it is a vital component of the safe work method statement. The section of the document must identify a working and efficient criteria or legend for the creators and readers of the SMWS, giving them the proper context for scoring the related activities.Job steps: The job steps section of the safe work method statement is of utmost importance and the most comprehensive component. The main purpose of it is to outline all the necessary actions and measures involved with the activity. The SMWS must indicate the accompanying risks and the necessary countermeasures to alleviate or lessen the occurrence of these hazards. Each job step present on the SMWS receives a risk score to aid the involved individuals in deciding whether to move forward. It must also identify who is responsible for work continuity to prioritize the steps requiring the most stringent safety standards and requirements.Monitoring and review: One of the reasons for creating a safe work method statement is to inform, establish, and promote safe work practices to observe the proper approach in completing and performing high-risk activities. Workers engaging in the job steps must acknowledge the contents of the SMWS. Most importantly, it must undergo regular review from outputs and new insights to keep the document relevant.

Helpful Tips to Consider When Drafting a Safe Work Method Statement

Remember that the SMWS is an informational document to explain the nature of work and the corresponding measures to lessen the hazards and risks for a project’s duration. One must have sufficient knowledge in handling and creating a safe work method statement to guarantee the safety of every person in the worksite. Aside from knowing the components, here are additional tips to help you in drafting the company’s safe work method statement.

Tip #1: Take the Time to Ask and Consult Knowledgeable Figures

When creating a safe work method statement, it is beneficial to consult experienced workers to collect crucial information on frequently overlooked details or subjects. It is also advantageous to involve every working individual to project meetings or planning processes to increase the likelihood of contributing ideas and addressing situations while implementing their tasks in the SWMS.

Tip #2: Planning Properly is Fundamental

Before beginning high-risk activities for a construction project, guarantee the accomplishment and availability of the safe work method statement. The project’s principal contractor must guarantee the presence of the SMWS before the commencement of any construction plan or action to avoid delays and incidents. It is also advisable to disseminate the SMWS document to all workers involved in the project to gain insight and understanding.

Tip #3: Guarantee Regular Reviewing and Revision of the SWMS

The principal purpose of the document is to diminish, if not eliminate, the occurrence of risks during construction work. It is imperative to conduct regular checks and monitoring that help distinguish and prevent any loopholes within construction processes. To be safe, prepare inspections monthly and yearly, especially if the project extends over a long period.

Tip #4: Keep the Information Precise and Straight to the Point

It helps to keep the details of the SMWS concise rather than wordy. Utilize clear, short, and topic-focused points in explaining potential hazards and the equivalent countermeasures to control their occurrence. In keeping the SMWS precise, workers can easily comprehend, perform, and monitor situations during the construction work.

Tip #5: Incorporate the Use of Illustrations as Necessary

The safe work method statement must easily interpret for everyone inside the worksite. In certain situations that there is a language barrier between the management, contractor, and workers, introducing various diagrams, photos, and other visual representations makes it easier for them to understand the document’s content.

Tip #6: Guarantee Acknowledgment and Conduct Random Checks

Each worker must guarantee the receipt, understanding, and acknowledgment of the SWMS by indicating their names and signatures at the end of the document. In their recognition, they confirm reading the components of the SWMS, including the associated work and corresponding risks. It also helps to initiate spontaneous reviews in the workplace, questioning employees and workers regarding the control measures in the SWMS. This step ensures that everyone on the worksite understands the risks and risk controls to complete the necessary tasks of the project. If there is an instance wherein workers do not comprehend the SWMS, identify and address the various gaps during the investigations.


What components must always be present in the safe work method statement?

As there are various forms of the safe work method statement, each contractor or company utilizes its format. However, in all SWMS documents, information concerning high-risk activities, health and safety hazards, control measures, implementation of control measures, and revision and review dates.

How often do you need to review a safe work method statement?

It is advisable to keep a copy of the safe work method statement available for inspection. It must be readily accessible to all workers until the completion of work. These documents must be present for two years and must be reviewed and revised as necessary after a notifiable incident occurs.

What is the difference between a safe work method statement and a job safety analysis?

The main difference of the safe work method statement from a job safety analysis is the presence of high-risk construction work (HRCW) regulation. HRCW are 19 work and construction activities that cause significant and serious harm to workers if there is no safe observance of the action. The SWMS must identify the HRCW, including its hazards, control measures, and implementations of countermeasures.

In every workplace, it is of utmost importance to guarantee that workers have a safe working environment. In cases that management or company cannot assure the safety of individuals, it is necessary to spread information regarding work-related risks and measures to prevent or lessen their occurrence.  The safe work method statement provides workers, especially those working on a construction site or project, a list of hazards they can encounter in their environment. As a contractor, all individuals must have a sufficient understanding of the risks present, and if possible, conduct reviews and revisions when incidents occur. Guarantee the safety and security of workers through utilizing the safe work method statement samples available above for use and download.