Creating a Safe Work Method Statement (pronounced ‘swims’ in the construction ‘biz’) for working in plant hire is essential for any enterprising equipment or plant hire company with the intention of working on civil, commercial or mine construction projects, or working as a subcontractor to a major contractor in any capacity.
What is a Safe Work Method Statement and why do I have to complete one?
A Safe Work Method Statement outlines, defines and measures the risks and then explains practices for mitigating those risks associated with any construction task, service or machine. In our industry the most common document you’ll be asked to supply at the beginning of a hire process is a SWMS for working around mobile plant and equipment. You may then need to supply a SWMS for the service you're providing - such as bulk earthworks.
Undertaking the process of completing a SWMS document is almost as important as the information itself. Demonstrating to a project manager or civil engineer that you have thought about the possible safety implications of your machine, the site and the people around it, sends a message that you care about the site’s safety issues, and that you care about contributing to safe practises on the site. It also sends a message of professionalism, and demonstrates an understanding of the work standards on a big site.
Different Types of Safe Work Method Statement for Plant Hire:
SWMS's are very different depending on the task, and also depending on the contract terms you’ve been hired under. Producing a SWMS for a dry hire machine might be a five second job - rinsing and repeating from an existing document - because you are ultimately not responsible for the operation of the machine once it lands on site (but you are responsible for the machine being maintained and in working order).
A SWMS for a wet hire job is going to be more comprehensive, because you’re going to need to go into detail about the operator (his experience, tickets and safety training), the operation of the machine and its attachments. If you are an end-to-end contractor, hired to deliver a particular service (like bulk earthworks, for example), then your SWMS is going to be a meaty one, describing every possible situation, hazard, risk and outcome, and your plans to deal with them.
There are different SWMS's for different machines, and then there are SWMS's for service provision. You need to get into the headspace that you will be creating and dispatching a SWMS for every machine and service you provide on a site.
Common Types of Safe Work Method Statements for the mobile plant hire industry:
- Mobile Plant - Earthmoving
- Mobile Plant - Backhoe
- Mobile Plant - Trucks, Tippers & Transporting Materials
- Specialist SWMS - Directional Drilling, Location of Underground Assets
- Mobile Plant - Excavator
- Mobile Plant - Skid Steer Loader
- Mobile Plant - Dozer
- Mobile Plant - Dump Truck
- Mobile Plant - Grader
- Mobile Crane - Slewing
- Mobile Crane - Non-Slewing
- Mobile Plant - Roller & Compactor
- Mobile Plant - Street Sweeper
- Mobile Plant - Wheel Loader & ITC
- Mobile Plant - EWP/Telehandler
- Transporting of Earthmoving Machinery
Common Types of Safe Work Method Statements for earthmoving services:
- Vacuum Excavation
- Location of Underground Assets
- Bulk Earthworks & Excavation
- Detailed Earthworks & Excavation
- Working on Roads
- Onsite Repair, Fuelling & Machine Maintenance
- Asbestos Removal
- Demolition of Concrete Slabs, Demolition of Small Structures
- Concrete Footpaths
- Working at Heights
- Retaining Walls
And that is just to name a very small few. Literally every earthmoving or equipment task you can think of needs a SWMS. There are plenty of online services that can provide those partially completed (saving you time, which really means saving you money).
Safe Work Method Statement for a Principal Contractor versus Subcontractor:
Under the guidelines of Safe Work Australia, all principal contractors are required to complete a very comprehensive SWMS for all construction work. This is what is provided for in the legislation, and it's not actually mandated by regulation that a hire company, or even a subcontractor needs to complete a SWMS. But most contracting businesses in Australia are very prudent and stitched-up outfits. If they have to stand by their SWMS, they prefer to have a pile of SWMS underneath it, bolstering their safety practises right to the coalface. Given all the construction tasks occurring on a site at any one time, it makes sense to push the creation of SWMS documents onto their suppliers - so it becomes your problem to ensure they are complaint with the law (but that is life as a subcontractor, am I right?)
What is the purpose of a Safe Work Method Statement?
As per Safe Work’s guidelines on what a comprehensive SWMS should include, this is their recommendations on the overall structure of a correct Safe Work Method Statement:
- Set out the work practises and activities in a logical and chronological order
- Identify all the possible hazards that could occur from those activities
- Describe the control methods
- Demonstrate that your staff have an understanding of these practises
How should a Safe Work Method Statement be laid out?
I reckon you’re crazy if you create a SWMS from scratch in this day and age. They are massive documents full of tables and icons. Who needs the hassle? That is why a bunch of these online companies have cropped up offering affordable templates that can be downloaded in Microsoft Word. They can be updated in only a few minutes and dispatched to the project manager with ease. Completing a SWMS can be mandatory before a site takes delivery of your machine, so if the project manager needs your gear urgently, then dispatching a SWMS to him as quickly as possible can be essential.
The top 5 Best Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) template providers - we’ve ranked them.
Australia has some of the most rigorous safety practises in construction in the world. We also have a unique operating environment with particular hazards that relate to the type of aggregate, landscape and environment (like, extreme heat) that people have to work in. As such, I think it’s important you download your SWMS from local purveyors, because they are most likely to have captured the unique challenges and used language that is common to Australia and Australian construction industry practises.
Below we review the local online operators that provide partially completed SWMS documents for the applications that mostly relate to our industry - which is mobile plant and equipment, subcontracted earthmoving and other equipment related construction tasks.
1. Safety Culture: www.safetyculture.com
We reckon these guys are the best in Australia - and we also love supporting local Australian technology start-up heros. Their business is based in Townsville (so was iSeekplant at one point - fun fact) and they are the world leader in online safety solutions for the construction industry. They have the most massive library of different SWMS that are almost fully (or partially) completed with everything you need. Their SWMS documents can be bought for about $79.
As far as we’re concerned, Safety Culture has it nailed in terms of usability, full functions, mobile device optimisation and comprehensive library. The work is good and worth the expense, and the experience on their site is slick.
2. Occupational Safety Solutions: www.occupational-safety.com.au
These guys offer a more comprehensive range of safety management documents, more so than Safe Work Method Statements that specialise in just SWMS. They have a massive library of SWMS's for our industry, but where they fall down is that they don’t offer an example document for you to review in detail. The pages all describe the content of the document, but they don’t go that last 10% to show what’s included. They do offer instant download (where as some tell you that they will send you the document in under 30 mins. Sometimes this can be a hand-break).
3. Safe Work Method Statements: www.safeworkmethodstatements.com
SWMS are all that these guys do - and they have a massive library of documents to choose from across multiple industries. These guys also have a comprehensive range of partially completed SWMS documents. But they are half the price of Safety Culture. Their average SWMS costs about $37.50, which is precisely half the price of Safety Culture (so this is clearly a competitive tactic between the two of them).
Their site is super simple to use and they allow you to download trial documents in PDF so you can understand if they will meet your requirements.
4. Officeworks: www.officeworks.com.au
Wow - is there anything these guys won’t do. I guess selling paper nowadays is a dying industry - so the geniuses at Officeworks decided to get into the business of selling online documents. Kind of smart when you think about it. These guys are actually the dearest out of the group, by about $12 (average document is about $82) - but I have a feeling they are not necessarily targeting the construction industry heavily. They have a more limited range than some of the specialists discussed above. There is every likelihood however that Officeworks is just selling the documents of another provider, marking them up and whitelabelling them (who wants to bet me here?).
5. JSEAsy: www.jseasy.com.au
These cats boast an impressive 698 SWMS templates to choose from across construction and many, many other industries. They charge differently to everyone else - they are more of a subscription to safety related software, and contained in the software is a bunch of SWMS templates you can use. Their base level subscription is about $160 per year for one user. If you are a person who needs multiple SWMS for different machines and applications across different jobs each year, this is probably the most cost effective way to download documents ongoing.
Can I get my SWMS completed for me?
SWMS Express: www.swmsexpress.com
This website allows you to complete a form and a team will complete your SWMS and send it back to you - while you wait - rather than completing it yourself. This can be an ideal service for someone who owns and operates their own machine and can’t complete paperwork easily. Not sure what the quality is like, or whether they are comprehensive, but for a few people this service would be a god-send.
How do I complete a safe work method statement?
Well the good news is that you don’t have to create it from thin air - in the services described above you’ll find that 90% of the content is there. You can buy these templates online with most of the content included - which would then only require a simple process of updating, and adding to the document ongoing.
Thankfully - once you’ve produced one particular type of SWMS - they are easy to replicate because similar hazards apply to many of the jobs you undertake. You just need to make some small tweaks to the SWMS for the job at hand, by deeply thinking through special situations that might apply to the landscape, type of aggregate you’re working with, the unique suppliers you are paired with on the job, and the machines you’re using to deliver the project.