Generic Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS)

Today, Kevin Jones, one of the workplace health and safety industry commentators and industry professionals made a post in regards to generic SWMS and the recent announcement of the SafetyCulture & SAI Global reseller partnership.

I mostly agree with Kevin’s concerns in relation to the industry using SWMS as a way of getting past red tape, and I would like to point out that we introduced generic SWMS to bring the costs of development down for our clients. I also see SWMS as a stepping stone in the industry and would hope that the industry ends up with an interactive training and awareness tool in place if each SWMS, which is as close to zero cost as possible. It is also worth mentioning that SafetyCulture SWMS are written by former government WHS Inspectors with many years of experience. We have only had five writers in the past seven years.

I agree with Kevin’s core message in relation to SWMS, some employers are relying on them as a way to cover their obligations without proper implementation. They are also being used as a way to train employees across a range of activities in addition to the core high risk activities they were originally intended for. Better methods of training could be utilised and we are working on developing more engaging methods of working safely.

I created SafetyCulture after personally investigating and managing around 2500 workplace accidents as a workers compensation investigator and manager of a team of 25 field Investigators. I felt that with better training and greater safety awareness, many of the workplace accidents involved, could have been avoided.

I wanted to make safety more affordable, so all employers could implement safe systems of work. I had been working in a reactive role, that was essentially in existence only because an accident had already occurred. I decided to become proactive and help workers and employers avoid accidents.

We started out with basic OHS Policies dealing with issues such as drugs and alcohol in the workplace. This was not a new concept, safety professionals had been providing these services for years, and yet, a large number of employers were not employing the services of a professional or training their staff to work safely.

As we created a safe work method statement for a client, there was some repetition when working with another client with the same needs. We didn’t feel it was necessary to charge the entire cost associated with creating a document from scratch so we began to make it available to other employers at a subsidised rate and then also offered them as generic SWMS.

We required all clients to agree to terms when purchasing, that included having a safety professional conduct risk assessments, consult with employees and review their processes and documentation regularly.

Ideally every client who purchased a SWMS would follow our direction for implementation, however not all do. We see clients who haven’t conducted any risk assessments, who haven’t tailored the document to their worksite, or even consulted with their workers in relation to what the document contains. We openly advise potential clients that they are wasting their time and money, if the document isn’t implemented correctly.

SafetyCulture’s mission now is to make safety available to every worker in the world. It is a basic human right, and currently the best systems are only available to those companies with large cheque books.

Our first prototype of a low cost, collaborative model was with the iAuditor application that we released in February 2012. It was based on the idea of allowing workers to share what they had created and then constantly improve it. I was not sure if the industry would embrace the technology yet, or if indeed companies were prepared to share what they create.

I think the trial has been a success. iAuditor is now used to conduct around 12,000 workplace inspections per day across the world. This number increases every week. Users have shared 5600 different types of audit forms. We have been contacted by many of the worlds largest companies to advise us, iAuditor has changed the way they manage safety audits. Users are able to export their audit data into their existing safety management systems for further action and analysis.

So, now we are becoming focused on empowering workers with technology to work safer. iAuditor was simply a prototype, a test case if you like. From here we can build more comprehensive reporting features, such as follow up actions and commence reporting and trend analysis to help us move closer to being able to identify risks and predict accidents ahead of time.

iAuditor also has met one other major requirement we had at the start of this project. It is free to use. This is very important, because it has changed the way companies test and identify their safety management systems. Due to costs and access restrictions, new safety management systems were only available to management staff, and only when management decided it was ready, workers would then be exposed to the new idea or system.

But because iAuditor is free, we have seen workers download the app, start using it, test it, find the boundaries of it, and then suggest it to management for greater use. We are starting to see the beginning of a worker driven safety system, which has been the holy grail of every company I’ve worked with. Workers taking the initiative to work safer, to suggest changes, and to be willing to try new methods. This is a new paradigm of safety management.

At SafetyCulture we are actually working towards a model where SWMS can also be shared freely, and ultimately I hope that SWMS are replaced with more engaging forms of training and compliance methods across the industry. We have some announcements coming in 2013 in relation to what we have been developing.

As legislation is generally prepared in a reactive context, innovation and change is largely driven by private enterprise.

It is also interesting to note that a significant part of our business comes from safety professionals who want to use a generic SWMS as a framework for delivering customised SWMS to their clients.

The reality is that the majority of people reading this are likely to be the proactive members of our industry, and not necessarily the workers and employers who we are trying to protect. Any workplace safety solutions that are introduced, need to be simple, intuitive and introduce more efficient methods of working safely, instead of adding to the demands placed on workers.

I welcome any discussion around this subject and I’m available for comment on related subjects, if required.



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Safety Culture’s mission is to make Safety a way of life in the workplace. We aim to do this by creating simple and useable systems that will be used by workers. As one of Australia’s leading providers of Occupational Health and Safety services, SafetyCulture works with over 9000 clients across Australia and abroad and delivers Audit Forms, Online OHS Inductions, Safe Work Method Statements and OHS Systems every day through our network of qualified OHS Consultants. From the most basic OHS Systems for small business operators through to corporate branded Induction Platforms, SafetyCulture is committed to making safety – a way of life™. For more information feel free to call one of our friendly staff on 1300 306 604.