What are safe work procedures (SWPs)?

Role of safe work procedures (SWPs)

Safe work procedures (SWPs) are part of a mining operation’s risk management toolkit and are known by many names, including:

  • SOPs - safe operating procedures
  • SWIs - safe work instructions
  • SWMS - safe work method statements.

They are a documented set of directions for a task or activity, and provide workers with the safest and most efficient agreed way to perform their work. The implementation of the SWP relies on each worker following the requirements as set out in the document.

SWPs are administrative controls and are less effective than other controls, such as elimination, substitution, isolation and engineering.

Content of an SWP

An SWP will typically contain:

  • introduction - summarising the purpose for which the procedure was developed
  • scope - detailing who the procedure applies to at the mine
  • references - information used in developing the document
  • definitions - lists of words that are commonly used throughout the procedure and the context in which they are written
  • details of the procedure - listing what is required for the task to be completed safely and efficiently
  • responsible persons - people at the mine responsible for implementing and maintaining the procedure, and ensuring compliance with the directions in the procedure
  • reviewers - the people at the mine responsible for reviewing and authorising the procedure.

When is an SWP developed?

SWPs are generally developed after completing a risk assessment that considers the environment in which the task will be completed.