Recently, the issue of Safe Work Method Statements was discussed at a construction safety conference in Canberra. SafetyAtWorkBlog reported that:
“Several delegates stated their belief that the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC) is largely to blame for the over-emphasis on SWMS in the construction sector and for the bloating of SWMS into a document that does little to improve safety and is more related to meeting the audit criteria of the OFSC”
Last week, the Office of the Federal Safety Commission (OFSC) removed the webpage that led to its Fact Sheet – Guidance for producing Safe Work Method Statements. The webpage now says that
“The Guidance for producing Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) Fact Sheet is currently under review.”
What’s going on?
SafetyAtWorkBlog contacted the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner and asked
- What has generated this review?
- Is there a proposed timeline for the review’s completion?
- Will the public be offered an opportunity to comment on, or participate in, the review?
The OFSC provided the following response through DEEWR,
“Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) have been a topic of industry discussion, and accordingly, the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC) is ensuring that its guidance material is as clear as possible in relation to the Scheme’s references to SWMS. Any revisions to this material will be developed in consultation with the OFSC’s Australian Government Agency and Industry Reference Groups, and should be finalised in coming weeks.” (link added)
So “industry discussion” generated the review. It would be great for this to be credited to the Building Safety conference but the timing of the review may simply be coincidental.
The extent of the review is unclear and there is no fixed timetable. The review may be completed in the “coming weeks” with consultation but the Industry Reference Group and the Australian Government Agency Reference Group only meet
“…three times a year and occasionally have joint meetings where issues of relevance to both groups can be openly discussed”.
The OFSC could not advise of the meeting schedules for these groups.
The prominent role that SWMS play in high risk workplaces throughout Australia demands a broader range of consultation than offered through these reference groups. It is significant that the response given to SafetyAtWorkBlog makes no mention of public consultation. It is a fair assumption that these same reference groups (possibly with different membership) formulated the original SWMS guidance.
At the moment there is no indication that the OFSC review involves anything more than the guidance documentation but formal consultation on the SWMS should be started or, at least, scheduled. There are productivity, red tape, business cost and occupational health and safety benefits from such a review. Perhaps in the build up to Australia’s next Federal Election on September 2014, someone with the voice of the political parties can get this onto the political agenda. It surely can’t do worse than the attempt at OHS harmonisation.