Safe Work Method Statements

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Safe Work Method Statements  (SWMS)

What is a SWMS?

Safe work method statement or SWMS is the term given to a legal document required by WHS legislation for high risk construction work.

Purpose of SWMS

Purpose of safe work method statement or SWMS is to set out in a logical sequence the high risk activities of a work task with:

  • Hazards identified

  • Risk assessed

  • Risk controls to ensure worker safety when carrying out high risk construction work

Safe work method statements authored by Workplace Health and Safety for HRCW address:

  • WHS legislative requirements

  • The elements of a SWMS (safe work method statement)

  • Control measures per the hierarchy of controls to manage risk

WHS Compliance

WHS Compliance More Info

WHS Laws

Workplace health and safety laws apply to a PCBU, officers of a PCBU, workers and other persons at a workplace.​

Workplace Safety

PCBU duties imposed by WHS legislation require a person conducting a business or undertaking to ensure a safe workplace.

Safety in workplaces is achieved through the:

  • Identification of hazards
  • Assessment of risks
  • Elimination of hazards
  • Control of risks, e.g. engineering controls, administrative controls

How to monitor WHS compliance

Health and safety compliance is achieved by:

  • Monitoring the effectiveness of control measures
  • Amending the SWMS to reflect the implementation of any new control measures to manage the risk.

PCBU Duty of care

Legislation for workplace health and safety requires a PCBU who is carrying out high risk work at a construction workplace to:

  • Ensure a safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared before the proposed high risk construction work commences
  • Have supervisory arrangements in place to ensure the high risk construction work is undertaken as per the SWMS
  • Provide a principal contractor with a copy of the SWMS before commencing the work task
  • Review, amend and reissue the SWMS should the work procedures change
  • Retain a copy of the SWMS until the high risk construction work is completed


SWMS More Info

Safe Work Method Statements

Health and safety legislation imposes duty of care responsibilities on a PCBU as a duty holder to ensure the health and safety of workers.

  • Safe work method statements for HRCW must eliminate or reduce risk to as low as reasonably practicable

SWMS Elements

The elements of a SWMS (safe work method statement) for high risk construction work must:

  • Identify the work task or activity that is high risk construction work
  • Identify the hazards relating to the high risk construction work
  • Identify risks to health and safety associated with those hazards identified
  • Assess the risk to determine the likelihood and severity of harm
  • Describe the risk controls to be implemented for controlling the risk per risk controls hierarchy
  • Describe how the control measures will be implemented, monitored and reviewed to eliminate or minimise risk

When is a SWMS required?

A PCBU that proposes to carry out high risk construction work must:

  • Prepare, keep, comply with and review the high risk construction work SWMS for the high risk construction work activity
  • Provide the safe work method statement to the principal contractor


SWMS must include the PCBU details:

  • PCBU Name
  • PCBU Address
  • Person responsible for implementing SWMS and monitoring compliance in the workplace

Principal Contractor

If HRCW is being carried out at a construction project, the SWMS must include the principal contractor details:

  • Name of the principal contractor
  • Address where high risk construction work will be carried out
  • Date SWMS was prepared
  • Date SWMS was provided to the principal contractor
  • SWMS review date (if required)

High Risk Construction Work List

SWMS are required for the 18 high risk construction work activities defined in the WHS Regulations.

  • Demolition of load-bearing structure
  • Diving work
  • Likely to involve disturbing asbestos
  • Risk of a person falling more than 2 metres (Note: in some jurisdictions this is 3 metres)
  • Temporary load-bearing support for structural alterations or repairs
  • Tilt-up or precast concrete elements
  • Use of explosives
  • Work in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere
  • Work in areas with artificial extremes of temperature
  • Work in or near a confined space
  • Work in or near a shaft or trench deeper than 1.5 m or a tunnel
  • Work on a telecommunication tower
  • Work on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines
  • Work on or near energised electrical installations or services
  • Work on or near pressurised gas mains or piping
  • Work in an area with movement of powered mobile plant
  • Work on, in or adjacent to a road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor in use by traffic other than pedestrians
  • Work in or near water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning

WHS Legislation

Health and Safety Legislation More Info

Health and Safety Legislation

The intent of health and safety legislation is to secure the health and safety of workers by eliminating risk arising from work.

Health and safety legislation in the workplace is the WHS legislative framework and comprises of:

  • WHS Acts
  • WHS Regulations
  • Codes of Practice

WHS Acts

WHS Acts provide the WHS framework to ensure the safety of workers and other persons who might be at risk from the undertaking of work activities.

WHS Regulations

WHS regulations establish a framework for the implementation of controls to prevent or minimise the risk.

Codes of Practice

Codes of practice provide WHS duty holders with WHS guidance material to:

  • Identify hazards and manage risks
  • Achieve the health and safety aims and objectives of the Work Health and Safety Act

Reasonably Practicable

A PCBU must so far as reasonably practicable, eliminate or minimise risks where there is no regulation or code of practice about a risk.

  • Elimination, substitution, engineering, administrative and ppe

WHS Standards

WHS Standards establish technical specifications and procedures intended to be used consistently, as a rule, guideline, or definition.

  • Australian Standards
  • Australian/New Zealand Standards