SWMS, JSA, SOP… What’s the difference?

Confused by all the different terms used in safety? Let break it down.

SWMS (Safe Work Method Statements)

The usage of the term SWMS has increasingly been applied outside of high risk construction work and this is where some of the confusion has arisen from.

There are 18 high  risk construction work activities that set the standard for SWMS. The 18 activities selected signify the potential for significant harm when performing those duties.

A SWMS is different from other risk assessment documents such as a Job Safety Analysis or a Safe Operating Procedure as it is not intended to be a procedure but rather a document which is prepared in consultation with all relevant persons.

Compliance with the SWMS is mandated, so if the workers are not complying 100% with the SWMS, work must stop and the SWMS must be reviewed. Safework SA can issue penalties for failure to comply with SWMS. This is why it is important to keep the SWMS focused o those HRCW activities and understandable to the reader. If you think of the SWMS as a licence it may help you in understanding its intent.

Example (Safework SA)

Workers are installing a roof and there is a risk of persons falling more than three metres.

As this is HRCW, it must be addressed in a SWMS. There are also other hazards and risks associated with the work, such as sun exposure and manual handling. Such hazards and risks must still be appropriately managed, however, they don’t need to be included in the SWMS because manual handling and sun exposure are not prescribed HRCW.

Duty holders may still choose to address non-HRCW hazards and risks within a SWMS. But this should not compromise the intended focus on HRCW activities.

If too much additional information is presented, the document may stop being effective in identifying and communicating how the HRCW risks will be controlled.

JSA (Job Safety Analysis)

The term JSA has been in common usage in Australian industry for decades. A JSA is a form of a task based risk assessment, which details step by step how the task is to be carried out safely, as opposed to many risk assessments which only consider static conditions such as a machine or chemical storage risk assessment.

The JSA process is suitable for different trades do different tasks, and need not require enormous amounts of time or use endless pieces of paper

There are many different terms for a job safety analysis; JSEA (Job Safety and Environment Analysis), THA (Task Hazard Analysis), SJA (Safe Job Analysis), Pre-Work Safety Check however all these terms mean the same thing.

Simply put, a JSA means looking at the work task and considering what is the safest way to complete it. A JSA should only be used as a basic low level hazard identification  risk assessment tool.

SOP (Safe Operating Procedure or Standard Operating Procedure)

SOP’s are written step-by-step instructions for a specific task which may be hazardous or critical. The purpose of an SOP is to provide written guidance for a particular task such that any qualified person can successfully and safely complete the task.

SOP’s should be very detailed on “how” to accomplish a specific job, task or assignment. SOP’s are often referred to as work instructions.

For example, a work procedure could be developed for assembling the final housing of a product with step-by-step instructions including such detail as the torque requirements of the fastening screws.

Operator Manuals, Engineering or Technical Manuals, Technical Support notes, Manufacturing Notes, etc., should be used in order to create detailed SOP and work instructions.

Take five

The take 5 for safety process is s a simple and effective way to increase safety awareness. There are a few variations to these such as StepBack.

The process is basically about taking 5 minutes to think about the hazards of the job. A take 5 does not replace a SWMS, JSA or risk assessment but rather engages the person to prepare the mind before the hands.