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Everything You Need To Know About Safe Work Method Statements in NSW

March 13, 2024
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Construction work is well-known for its dangers, from explosives to asbestos and falls to hearing damage. According to Safe Work NSW, there are several criteria that place construction work in the category of high risk. If it involves the risk of falling more than two metres, if it takes place on a telecommunications tower, if it includes demolition of load-bearing structures or if it’s carried out in a confined space, these are among the factors that place it in the category of high-risk construction work under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulation 2017.

If you’re carrying out high-risk construction work in NSW, it’s essential to develop a safe work method statement (SWMS). This document has to be site-specific, and it has to be available to workers, supervisors and anyone else involved in your workplace so they can fully understand the risks involved.

To guarantee the highest level of protection for you and your staff, it pays to seek out a professional who is well-versed in safe work method statements in NSW. SWMS’s aren’t overly complicated documents but they do need to accurately identify the hazards in your workplace and how to mitigate them, as well as meet the relevant legal requirements. 

The Purpose of Safe Work Method Statements in NSW

A safe work method statement serves the simple purpose of keeping all staff as safe as possible on a high-risk construction site. It’s intended as both a planning and implementation device, accessible by both staff and supervisors.

More specifically, a safe work method statement lays out the high-risk activities in a construction workplace, the hazards that arise from these activities, and the steps put in place to control them. One of the subtle ways a SWMS differs from other safety documents like a Job Safety Analysis is that it’s not a procedure to follow. Instead, the purpose of a safe work method statement is to keep everyone on your team safe.

A person undertaking a business or undertaking (PCBU) is required to have a SWMS prepared before high-risk construction work begins. At the very least, a SWMS needs to identify that the work is high-risk, specify what the hazards are, describe the control measures to be put in place, describe how the measures will be monitored and reviewed, and be easy for readers of the document to understand.

One safe work method statement can cover several high-risk activities on the same job site. Alternatively, you can have separate SWMS documents for different activities if that’s a more effective approach. You don’t need an SWMS for all construction activities, just the ones considered high risk.

When Are Safe Work Method Statements Required in NSW

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Safe work method statements are required when the work being carried out is considered to be high risk. According to Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulation 2017, the definition of high-risk construction work includes construction work that:

  • Involves a risk of falling more than two metres.  
  • Takes place on a telecommunication tower. 
  • Involves the demolition of a load-bearing structure element.
  • Involves the demolition of a structural element relating to the building’s physical integrity.  
  • Involves asbestos.
  • Involves repairs that require temporary support to prevent collapse.
  • Takes place in or near a confined space.
  • Takes place in or near a shaft or trench deeper than 1.5 metres.
  • Requires explosives.
  • Happens on or near pressurised gas mains or piping.  
  • Involves chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines.
  • Takes place near energised electrical installations or services.  
  • Takes place in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere.
  • Involves precast or tilt-up concrete.  
  • Happens on or adjacent to a road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor.
  • Takes place in a workplace area with mobile power plants.
  • Involves work in a place with artificial temperature extremes.
  • Takes place near water or involves the risk of drowning.
  • Involves diving.

How Do Safe Work Method Statements Help Minimise Risk?

In an industry like construction, where falls from heights are tragically common, we know how essential it is to prioritise worker safety. So, as a PCBU, what do you need to do besides make sure your team is following the regular recommended safety protocol.

So, how do safe work method statements help to minimise the risk? Here are some of the benefits a properly planned SWMS can have for your team:

Effective hazard identification

By undertaking a thorough assessment of the worksite and identifying potential hazards, appropriate measures can be put into place as soon as possible.

Clear communications

The purpose of a safe work method statement is to provide a well-informed and concise rundown of the risks associated with a task to minimise the chance of injury.

A consistent approach

With a safe work method statement, you can make sure everyone on the team is on the same page and following the same approach.

Legal compliance

In NSW, safe work method statements help your organisation comply with legal requirements for safety.

Continual improvement

A safe work method statement is not a static document. It needs to be regularly reviewed to address new hazards and risks as they arise.

Due diligence

If an accident does occur, a safe work method statement can serve as evidence that you took sufficient steps to prevent it.

When a safe work method statement is required, a professional like SSTC can ensure that every possibility is considered and every necessary safety measure is implemented.  

NSW Safe Work Method Statements at SSTC

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Plans and permits are essential for the safety of your workers and the public, and that includes safe work method statements in NSW.

Trusted by some of Australia’s largest construction companies, SSTC has the skills to put together a comprehensive and detailed safe work method statement that complies with all local regulations and covers all of your bases. We can help you acquire any plans and documents you need, identify hazards you may have missed and create a solid strategy for your construction site.

With extensive planning experience, we’ve developed strong relationships with local councils, police, and other regulatory bodies that you’ll likely need to liaise with. In a crisis situation, our emergency response teams can also calmly and effectively take action.
Contact SSTC to get your free quote on a NSW safe work method statement.

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