Safe Work Method Statements vs Job Analysis — the crucial difference


Safe Work Method Statements vs Job Analysis — the crucial difference

A reader writes in to ask: what is the difference between a Safe Work Method Statement and a Job Hazard Analysis?

Safe Work Method Statements and Job Hazard Analysis — what is the difference?

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Q. What is the difference between a Safe Work Method Statement and a Job Hazard Analysis? When should we use each? In what circumstances are an SWMS and a JHA required? 

A. There are several important differences between an SWMS and a JHA. We will look at the SWMS first and the JHA second. 

Safe work method statements

A safe work method statement (SWMS) needs to identify the work to be done, specify its hazards and risks, describe the measures to be implemented to control that risk and set out how the control measures are to be implemented and maintained. The SWMS has to be expressed in a way that is readily accessible and understandable to everyone who uses it.

In the states and territories that have already adopted work health and safety legislation, the WHS Regulations set out the requirements for SWMS in regs 299 to 302.

The legal requirement is to use SWMS whenever high risk construction work is undertaken. High risk construction work is defined as construction work that involves any of the following:
  • risk of a person falling more than 2 m (or in South Australia, 3m)
  • the disturbance of asbestos
  • demolition of an element of a structure that is load-bearing or otherwise related to the physical integrity of the structure
  • the use of explosives
  • structural alterations or repairs that require temporary support to prevent collapse
  • tilt-up or precast concrete, or
  • diving work.
It is also considered to be high risk construction work if construction work is carried out on, in or near any of the following:
  • a telecommunication tower
  • a confined space
  • pressurised gas distribution mains or piping
  • chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines
  • energised electrical installations or services
  • a tunnel or a shaft or trench deeper than 1.5 m
  • water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning
  • an area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant
  • an area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere
  • an area in which there are artificial extremes of temperature, or
  • a road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor in use by traffic other than pedestrians.
A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) that includes the carrying out of high risk construction work (generally a principal contractor) must, before the work commences, ensure that a safe work method statement for the proposed work is prepared or has already been prepared by another person (for example, an asbestos removalist, or a contractor who will be putting up scaffolding more than 2m high).

The PCBU must then ensure that the work is carried out in accordance with the SWMS. The person carrying out the work must give the principal contractor a copy of the SWMS, which must be reviewed as necessary and kept until the work is completed. If there is an incident or accident in connection with the work, the PCBU must keep a copy of the SWMS for at least two years after the incident occurs.
Because the WA government has not yet released its proposed version of the WHS Regulations, it’s too early to say if the circumstances when a SWMS is required will be the same as in the other states and territories.

WA’s existing Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 contains no reference to SWMS, therefore there is currently no legal requirement to use them, though they may help to develop and maintain safe systems of work.

Job hazard analysis

A job hazard analysis (JHA) – sometimes referred to as a job safety analysis (JSA) – has essentially the same function as a SWMS. It’s a written procedure developed to identify the dangers of a particular task in order to reduce the risk of injury. A JHA/JSA can be used as a practical safety assessment tool to aid in the process of identifying hazards, assessing and addressing risks and controlling risks for tasks with a high potential risk of injury.

There is no legal requirement in the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (or in the WHS Regulations) to use a JHA in any specified circumstances, but, like a SWMS, it can help an employer to ensure that safe job procedures are properly established and all employees are trained to use safe systems of work. 

Some organisations may have adopted policies that require the use of a JHA, and therefore employees will need to cooperate with them, but it’s not required by law.

The WA government provides a form for a JSA on its website.

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