Problems with safe work method statements

Problems with safe work method statements

This post was recently mentioned on the Safety at Work Blog in relation to illiteracy being a safety risk

We’ve had a chance to review a number of safe work method statements during recent safety audits.  A SWMS is is supposed to be an explanation of all steps that need to be completed on a job, the potential hazards and what controls will be in place. We have noted a very disturbing trend. With a few exceptions where the SWMS were first class, most of the SWMS’s we reviewed may have given someone a warm fuzzy feeling that they had met the minimum requirements of their contract but were pretty much not worth the paper they were written or scratched on. Many of them were courtesy of Google and most didn’t accurately reflect all steps of the task, let alone all of the potential risks, standards, code of practice, legislation and appropriate controls.  Anyone completing or providing a SWMS has a legal obligation to ensure they are completed properly. However, in the vast majority of cases, the supervisor, controller of premises or principal contractor to whom they were provided had not bothered to even glance through them to make sure they were accurate, let alone inspect the work at various stages to ensure the promised controls were still in place. We’re concerned that so many are just happy enough to have a piece of paper that says “Safe Work Method Statement” and do not take the time to ensure the accuracy of the document.

There was a recent case involving a fatal fall from a roof. JSAs and SWMS were provided but they were inadequate, they were modified by the Sub Contractor but the changes were not implemented nor checked by the PC that the issue was properly addressed. READ THE FULL CASE DETAILS HERE

To save you some time, the key findings from the case, in relation to JSAs and SWMSs, were:

32 In the present matter, Australand’s culpability stems from it’s failure to ensure that the risks to safety identified in the Job Safety Analysis (JSA) in relation to the installation of the safety mesh prepared by Garry Denson for GDMR and ultimately approved by Australand, were addressed in a safe and acceptable manner.

33 Prior to a subcontractor commencing on the Eastern Creek site, the defendant’s general practice was to require the subcontractor to complete a Sub-contractor Safety Pack. That Pack included a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) and a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) relevant to the work to be undertaken. The JSA was to specify how the work was to be done and the measures taken to eliminate the hazards associated with the work to be undertaken.

34 The Sub-contractor Safety Pack, including the completed JSA and SWMS, was then reviewed and approved by Australand’s Site Safety Coordinator for the Eastern Creek site, Mr Ben Ireland.

35 The JSA initially provided to Australand by Mr Garry Denson for GDMR was inadequate in a number of respects, particularly the actions to be taken to address the identified risk of falling when working from a height, including the need to ensure that the safety mesh was appropriately fastened, side lapped and joined.

36 As part of his job to review and approve the JSA, Mr Ireland insisted the JSA submitted by Mr Denson be amended to address the attendant risks associated with installing safety mesh. The potential hazards that needed to be managed were identified by Mr Ireland as:

· Mesh not appropriately fastened to purlins
· Mesh not appropriately lapped and/or joined.
· Sub-standard-mesh – not approved to AS1639

37 The JSA was subsequently amended by Mr Denson to reflect the changes requested by Mr Ireland. Tragically, the hazards identified by Mr Ireland as requiring inclusion in the JSA dealing with the installation of safety mesh were subsequently shown to be the cause of the accident resulting in Mr Exner’s death. That is, the safety mesh was not appropriately fastened to the purlins or properly side lapped.

FYI – Workcover issued this Safety Alert after the incident: Safety Mesh Used on Roofs (949)

Here are a few links to examples of safe work method statement templates that might be useful:

Safe Work Method Statement – A basic explanation

When should you review a safe work method statement

11 Steps to the development of a safe work method statement

Guidelines for writing safe work method statements in plain English – Workcover

Requirements issued by QLD DEIR for Construction work method statements:

Work method statements

Work method statements can assist relevant people to consider how certain activities will be carried out safely.

A relevant person doing construction work needs to prepare a work method statement for high-risk activities including:

  • where a person is –
    • to enter a trench more than 1.5 metres deep
    • using explosives
    • using a confined space
    • using a hazardous substance
  • if a person could fall–
    • at least 3 metres for housing construction work, or
    • at least 2 metres for other construction work
  • working on a roof with a pitch greater than 26°
  • where the principal contractor concludes an activity could result in death or bodily harm
  • demolition work or asbestos removal work (prescribed activities).

A work method statement is also required for high-risk activities which include:

  • tilt-up and precast construction work
  • structural alterations that require temporary support to prevent collapse
  • moving powered mobile plant at the workplace
  • working on a telecommunications tower
  • working in, over or adjacent to water where there is a risk of drowning
  • working on, or adjacent to, a road or railway
  • working on or near a pressurised gas distribution mains and consumer piping
  • working on or near a chemical, fuel or refrigerant line
  • work near an exposed energised electrical installation
  • work in an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere
  • work in an area where there are artificial extremes of temperature.

The work method statement must take into account the principal contractor’s construction safety plan and also state:

  • the high-risk construction activity
  • the person’s ABN
  • the control measures to be used
  • the way the activity will be performed
  • how the control measures will be monitored and reviewed
  • any relevant prescribed occupations.

For demolition work and asbestos removal work (prescribed activities) the work method statement must also state:

  • the relevant certificate number
  • the arrangements for appropriate training and supervision
  • take account of AS 2601 Demolition work (non-Queensland Government link) for demolition work.

Work method statements must be easy to understand, signed and dated.

The work method statement must be amended if there is a change in the activity and a copy must be given to the principal contractor. All people affected by changes must be advised of amendments to the work method statement.

The work method statement must be readily available for inspection. It must also be reviewed each year and amended if necessary.

Barry Spud

Barry Spud

Safety Crusader, Zero Harm Zealot and Compliance Controller at Everything Safety
Barry Spud
What is a Safety Spud? Lets look at a few more spud head activities in risk and safety: 1. Coming on to site saying there is a safety issue when in fact there’s no such thing, it’s a political issue. 2. ‘Falling apart’ when people make choices that we think are stupid because they won’t do as we ‘tell’ them. Then we put on the angry face and think that overpowering others creates ownership. 3. Putting on the zero harm face, presenting statistics, knowing it has nothing to do with culture, risk or safety. 4. Putting on the superman (hazardman) suit and pretending to be the saviour of everything, this is good spud head cynic stuff. 5. Thinking that everyone else is a spud head except me. 6. Thinking there’s such a thing as ‘common’ sense and using such mythology to blame and label others. 7. Accepting safety policies and processes that dehumanize others. 8. Blaming, ego-seeking, grandstanding and territory protecting behind the mask of safety. 9. Thinking that risk and safety is simple when in fact it is a wicked problem. Denying complexity and putting your spud head in the sand. 10. Continually repeating the nonsense language and discourse of risk aversion that misdirect people about risk, safety, learning and imagination.

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below