Can we please get SWMS, JSAs, SWPs etc under control?

Person tearing up paper

I’ve just stumbled across a couple of websites selling template Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) for activities like carpet cleaning, hand tools etc. and it is driving me crazy. In Australia, SWMS are only required for certain categories of High Risk Construction work (HRCW). If the task is not one of a defined list of HRCWs, it is not a SWMS, it is a JSA (Job Safety Analysis).

OK, I realise SWMS is easier to say than JSA and sounds “better”, but please can we go back to the regulatory definition and use SWMS for HRCW and JSAs everywhere else?

The confusion occurs because SWMS and JSAs cover most of the same information. The other problem is that as the AMCA website states; it is now common for contractors to be asked for SWMSs on these lower risk work activities by head contractors…..seeking to minimise their exposure to statutory and common law liability.

One of my clients has capitalised on this similarity by using the same template form for all SWMS and JSAs. They simply have a tick box at the top that categories them into SWMS, high risk JSAs and low risk JSAs where they review high risk JSAs at least annually and the low risk ones at least every 2 years. They also recognise the standard SMWS/JSA templates only cover the minimum requirement. They understand that the purpose of these documents is to ensure that their staff and their contractors get to go home to their families every night and so we are adding more details to cover things like qualification required to carry out the task etc.

The other thing that drives me crazy is the number of generic SWMS and JSAs (Job Safety Analysis). A SWMS is a “site-specific statement that must be prepared before any high-risk construction work is undertaken. A generic SWMS used at different workplaces may not meet the requirements of the law.” JSA’s are also supposed to be site specific.

Maybe Contractors should be responsible for generic SWMS and JSAs as follows

  • SWMS (G) – where G stands for generic
  • JSA (HG) -that cover tasks that are not HRCW and that are deemed high risk
  • JSA (LG) -that cover other tasks that are deemed low risk
  • SWP/SOP/SWIs – Safe Work Procedure/Process, Safe Operating Procedure/Process, Safe Work Instruction that covers safe handling of tools and equipment, not the task.

Site owners are then responsible for site-specific SWMS and JSAs, not the contractor. The site-specific documents focus on site details and include all the relevant generic contractor SMWS, JSA and SWP/SOPs as follows

  • SWMS which includes all generic SWMS, JSA, SWPs etc
  • JSA (H) – High Risk; reviewed at least annually
  • JSA (L) – Low Risk; reviewed at least every 2 years

So please, can we stop calling JSAs SWMS.

By the way, here is the list of acronyms used above with a few more thrown in.

  • SWMS – Safe Work Method Statement
  • JS(E)A – Job Safety (and Environmental) Analysis
  • JH(E)A – Job Hazard (and Environmental) Analysis
  • TRA – Task Risk Analysis
  • JSEA – Job Safety & Environmental Analysis
  • SWP – Safe Work Procedure
  • SOP – Safe Operating Procedure
  • SWI – Safe Work Instruction

Nigel Dalton-Brown, GAICD, AMIIA, MBA

Managing Director, Chair, Speaker, Lecturer, Author

Nigel is the Founder of Strytex and has been presenting and writing on Goverence, Obligational Awarenss, Risk Management and Compliance administration (GORC) since 2010.

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