Work projects can only be successful when the people working on them can stay safe and healthy. A method statement can provide the structure for workers to safely conduct their tasks. However, it can be unclear as to when exactly a method statement is needed, considering the various work conditions that different industries face, the expectations of clients, and the legal requirements that have to be met when it comes to health and safety.
This guide aims to answer the fundamental questions of what a method statement is, what is its purpose, why it is important, and when it is necessary to have one.
Method Statement Basics
A method statement is a health and safety management document that explains in detail how a work project must be undertaken safely. It takes into account all the hazards involved in performing tasks for a work project. With these hazards accounted for, the method statement then provides measures to keep people safe while performing tasks. Such safety measures are to be followed through a set of instructions for every task.
Method statements are based on risk assessments, which identify and assess the potential risks that come with a project. The information collected from a risk assessment acts as the basis for the procedures set out in a method statement. The two go hand-in-hand for any work project where health and safety are top priorities, especially when the risk assessment determines that certain risks cannot be completely eliminated from a project.
You may have also heard the term ‘safe system of work’ to describe a health and safety policy with the same purpose as a method statement. The two are functionally similar, so the terms may sometimes be used interchangeably throughout different industries. The key difference is that a safe system of work can go into much more detail than a method statement regarding emergency procedures and revising the system.
Ultimately, a method statement has to be written in as simple and clear terms as possible. Every work project participant must be able to follow it without any ambiguity or confusion to ensure everyone’s safety.
Why Method Statements Are Necessary
The primary purpose of having a method statement is to prevent harm from befalling workers and everyone else who might be affected by work that comes with health and safety risks. When workers get injured or fall ill as a result of doing their jobs, the entire organisation suffers, and the costs manifest in different ways.
Workers will have to take time off to recover, potentially stalling operations if they cannot be replaced. Employers are liable for compensation. Replacement staff would also have to be trained to get up to speed.
Without a method statement that explicitly outlines health and safety measures, an organisation may also face heavy legal consequences when a worker gets sick or injured during a project.
Method statements also serve an important role in communicating essential information to workers and potential project partners.
For staff, a method statement informs them of the dangers of their work and provides a straightforward set of sequences to follow that would let them avoid these dangers or respond quickly and efficiently in case of emergencies. Having a method statement that they can easily access and understand also indicates to them that they can confidently do their jobs, knowing their employers care for their well-being.
For clients, a method statement shows them the capacity of an organisation to carry out a project safely and successfully. It signals competency and trustworthiness, which are crucial to forming professional partnerships.
When to Make a Method Statement
Knowing just how useful method statements are, we can recognise the contexts wherein they are absolutely vital.
For High-Risk Projects
A method statement is a necessity in high-risk sectors where regular, everyday tasks put workers at risk. Construction is one such industry where method statements are expected for every project. People are operating heavy machinery, working at height, installing complex equipment, excavating underground, demolishing structures, and doing other demanding activities in a hazardous environment.
Although a method statement in itself is not a legal requirement in construction projects according to The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) acknowledges that putting in place a method statement is a way of meeting the regulations. What this tells us is that a method statement should not be seen merely as a document to be filed just to satisfy legal obligations, but as a critical part of the health and safety management process.
The numbers don’t lie regarding the necessity of method statements in construction. In 2021/22, HSE reported that the construction industry suffered 30 deaths at work, with a rate of fatal injury around four times as high as the average rate across all industries. The five-year average for fatal injuries is 36.
Method statements in construction are not static files as well. Conditions for one construction project can vary drastically from another project, even if the goals are similar. From moving to another worksite where the geography presents new hazards to assembling a new team with a different set of subcontractors, information has to be updated to account for all the changes.
When partnering with potential clients, it is best to prepare a tender method statement to secure agreements. Clients need confirmation that the organisation they will be working with has a detailed plan that outlines the resources, processes, and policies necessary to successfully finish a project.
With a tender method statement, it also guarantees clients that a comprehensive risk assessment has been done, and that proper health and safety procedures have been put in place to account for the identified risks. Clients can then study this tender method statement and decide if the control measures are fit for the project to be approved.
For Legal Obligations
The Health and Safety Work Act 1974 states that employers, including the self-employed, must provide and maintain safe systems of work. A safe system of work can be a set of policies and measures that safeguard the well-being of employees.
Method statements, while not being explicitly stated as the avenue for creating safe systems of work, can lay out the health and safety policies and measures that the law requires. Method statements in themselves are not necessary for legal compliance the way risk assessments are. However, creating a method statement is one way of achieving legal compliance through its process of developing a protective and preventive system that instructs workers to complete projects safely.
Preparing Method Statements Prepares Your Organisation
Having to deal with health and safety issues as they come would only add to the considerable burdens of launching and running high-risk projects. With a method statement, you can rest assured that your organisation is operating within a system that mitigates risks and allows workers to respond immediately to emergencies.
Make sure you have a method statement in place that covers all the prerequisites of a robust health and safety system. Contact The Health & Safety Dept today to get assistance from our experienced health and safety professionals in developing your next project’s method statement.