The Difference Between a JSA and SWMS

andrea rowe

Andrea Rowe

| July 29 2019

The Difference Between a JSA and SWMS

We regularly receive questions about the difference between a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS).

I explain the key differences below.

What is a JSA?

A JSA is a form of risk assessment, which details step-by-step how a task is to be carried out safely. Sometimes the JSA is called a JSEA and includes environmental aspects as well. The name does not matter.

Other than the employer’s general duty of care to ensure workers are trained and competent for their work, there are no specific legal requirements to have a JSA or any regulations prescribing the format or content for JSAs.

Typically, JSAs have three main components, these include:

  1. Tasks - A step-by-step list of the basic activities of the task e.g. start machine.
  2. Hazards – List of potential hazards at each step of the task.
  3. Control Measures - Step-by-step instruction on how to safely carry out the task by controlling each identified hazard.

An example JSA worksheet is shown below.

It describes the control measures to eliminate or minimise each hazard E.g. Precautions or PPE.

Tasks Hazards Control Measures

Step-by-step list of tasks required to perform the activity.

List of potential hazards related to each task.

Describes the control measures to eliminate or minimize each hazard e.g. precautions, PPE.

So, what is a SWMS?

A SWMS also details, step-by-step, how a task is to be carried out safely,

The difference between a JSA and a SWMS is that SWMS are prescribed for all High-Risk Construction Work (HRCW) under safety regulations in Australia. 

What is High-Risk Construction Work (HRCW)?

HRCW are the 19 specific construction activities with the potential for serious harm, if the activity is not conducted safety. For example; trenching, asbestos work, working at height etc. Click here to see a list of the HRCW activities.

The regulations require the SWMS for HRCW to:

  1. Identify work that is HRCW; and
  2. List the hazards; and
  3. Describe the controls measures; and
  4. How the risk control measures are to be implemented.

An example SMWS form is shown below:


Tasks that are HRCW: List the HRCW activities included in this SWMS.

How will the SWMS control measures be monitored and reviewed? E.g. direct supervision, regular spot checks.

Tasks Hazards relating to the HRCW Control Measures

Step-by-step list of tasks required to perform the activity

List of potential hazards related to each HRCW task

Describe the control measures to eliminate or minimize each hazard

In Western Australia, SMWS must also include training and equipment

Additional duties for SWMS in construction

  • Employer must ensure the SWMS for HRCW is complied with.
  • If the task or conditions change, the work must immediately STOP and the SMWS reviewed and updated.
  • SMWS to be kept for the duration of the task. Under the WHS Regulations, a SWMS must also be given to the Principal Contractor prior to work commencing.

What is NOT legally required in a SWMS?

The regulations do not prescribe the format of a SMWS and surprisingly, many details that are commonly seen on SWMS, are also not legally required.

Whilst companies may require additional optional information on their SWMS, safety laws do NOT mandate things like:

  • List of legislation or codes.
  • Consultation details.
  • Training records or worker’s sign-off.
  • Risk assessment rating.

Unnecessary details can distract from the primary purpose of the SMWS i.e. to identify and control the hazards. So, beware of fanatics trying to falsely enforce specific formats or content for JSAs or SWMSs.

Use of SMWS and JSA outside of construction

The use of the term SWMS has increasingly been applied outside of HRCW and this is where some confusion has arisen.

In some businesses, a SWMS is used for routine construction activities and a JSA for ad hoc tasks. Again, there are no legal rules here. Your business may call these documents whatever you like, as long as the SWMS contain the legal minimum outlined above


If your process identifies all the hazards and outlines how they will be controlled during the task, then you have satisfied the legal requirement to provide a ‘safe system of work’ whether called a JSA or SWMS.

Stay safe!


If you'd like a sample JSA or SWMS form or have any questions, talk to one of our expert Safety Consultants. Call +61 (03) 8544 4300 or enquire online

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