Safe System of Work VS SWMS: Are they the same? - 2.11.16

An organisation’s dedication to creating a safe workplace helps ensure that everyone gets to go home safe at the end of each day. In 2015, 195 Australian workers did not return home from work. Granted fatality rates have declined, with the 2015 death toll being the lowest since records started in 2003.

Albeit statistics from Safe Work Australia show that as at 11 October, 132 Australian workers have been killed in 2016. The value of a life is priceless, and one death is one too many, hence the importance of providing a safe working environment.

Safety is more than just hard hats, safety glasses, and gloves. Safety is the responsibility of all workers, at all levels and it falls on everyone to ensure that the highest level of safety is provided and practiced.

Two tools that can assist organisations in creating safe work environments are safe systems of work and safe work method statements. But what are they? Aren’t they the same thing and how do they help me manage safety in the workplace? These are all commonly asked questions that our customer support team receives on a regular basis. So we are here to hopefully help you gain a better understanding of these two safety terms.

What is a safe system of work?

Used to guide expected behaviours and actions a ‘safe system of work’ assists both employers and employees meet their respective legal obligations as per the WHS Act. It sets out systematically a way of defining safety management processes and is guided by policies and procedures.

Outlining roles and responsibilities of key personnel, participation arrangements, guides for resolving issues, processes for hazard identification, risk assessment and controls, managing incidents, emergency response and review/monitoring procedures, a safe system of work provides a method of communicating and implementing a way of working safely. The basis for this process begins with your workplace health and safety management system.

The procedures contained within a workplace health and safety management system will often refer to the use of safe work method statements.

What is a Safe Work Method Statement?

A safe work method statement (SWMS) assists in ensuring that all workers have a full understanding of the risks involved in the work activities they are performing, by setting out instructions required to carry out a job. A SWMS breaks jobs down into a logical sequence of steps, addresses control measures identified to mitigate risks and persons responsible.

Businesses within Australia are required under the WHS Act to prepare SWMS for works considered high-risk construction. We have previously written about high-risk construction work safe work method statements in our SWMS: When are they required? article here on our OHS News site.

Remember the implementation of a workplace health and safety management system and SWMS is more than just paperwork, it is imperative that safe work practices are being carried out in accordance with the company’s procedures to create a safe working environment and meeting compliance requirements.

Source: OHS News