Possible replacements for Safe Work Method Statements

Could improving the situational awareness of workers replace Safe Work Method Statements?

Many Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals rally against the dominance of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS). The application of SWMS beyond the legislated high-risk construction work parameters increases the amount of safety clutter and misrepresents OHS as being able to be satisfied by a, predominantly, tick-and-flick exercise. But critics of SWMS are rarely pushed on what, if anything, should replace SWMS? SafetyAtWorkBlog asked some experts and looked closer at the issue.

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Safety In Design to be included in new digital construction research

In March 2020, several Victorian universities and others were proud to announce their being provided government grants to

“…. transform how buildings are designed and manufactured in Australia”.

Given that safety in Design of buildings has been an ongoing initiative for many years, several questions on this topic were sent through to the Interim CEO of Building 4.0 CRC, Monash University Professor Mathew Aitchison. Below is the response.

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New air quality standards for outdoor work

On January 30 2020, the Victorian Trades Hall released a new “approved safety standard” on air quality risks for outdoor workers. It is the latest of a series of alerts and guidelines generated by the persistence of bushfire smoke in urban areas of, especially, New South Wales and Victoria. Bushfire smoke is only going to become more frequent in Australia, and its persistence over weeks, requires a coordinated discussion on how Australian workplaces and practices need to change to adapt to the new climate.

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Workplace hazards outside the window

Alerts on December 7 2019

I am entering the last of my four week’s work on a construction site in Sydney.  In my first week, the city was blanketed with thick smoke from nearby bushfires and all construction sites closed early for a day because the air was deemed hazardous.  That smoke has persisted for all of my time in Sydney.  Last Friday I was on site when the occasional piece of ash fluttered on to me.  The bushfire situation is unprecedented and my experience has shown me that Australia and Australian companies seem to struggle with how to operate in a disaster that will undoubtedly return.

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How much is safety a choice?

Some time ago I had a run-in with a worker who repeatedly chose not to wear his hard hat.  He reasoned that as there were no overhead or head-high hazards in the work area the personal protective equipment (PPE) was not necessary.  He applied what some would call a risk-based decision and he was right.  But the worker was dismissed from the project (not by me) over his decision and because of his belligerence and verbal abuse over the matter.  The reality was that he showed disrespect to his employer (a subcontractor) and disregard to the safety rules of the contractor thereby eroding the safety culture that the contractor was trying to establish and maintain in order to, ultimately, satisfy the client.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, September 8, 2018: Many road workers in orange vests are working on a busy inner city street. Source: istockphoto

There has been an increasing amount of discussion in the occupational health and safety (OHS) sector about trust.  There is little chance of achieving any change in a workplace without first of all establishing trust between the stakeholders, or at least a little bit of trust. But part of this trust is also respect. And part of this trust is that it should be earned… by everyone. Continue reading “How much is safety a choice?”