Technical

How to write high-quality method statements

Construction risk assessment (image: Dreamstime)
Image: Dreamstime

Alex Minett explains the purpose of risk assessment method statements and how to make sure yours are compliant.

The role of risk assessments in identifying and managing harm or ill-health within work activities is well understood, but it is easy to overlook the importance of method statements within this process.

A risk assessment method statement (RAMS) allow site, client or task-specific detail to be added into your safe way of working (known as a safe system of work). Done well, they are a planning tool to manage safety throughout a job right from the start.

For any business that employs five or more people, written risk assessments are a legal requirement. Although method statements aren’t a legal requirement, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) suggests they are an effective and practical way to help plan, manage and monitor construction work, and they are becoming a standard expectation in many construction workplaces.

Today, it is not unusual for method statements to be requested at the tender stage of a contract. When work is then awarded, there is an expectation for risk assessments and method statements to be shared before work starts to demonstrate further due diligence.

Where high-risk activities are concerned (such as demolition and structural works), method statements also offer an opportunity to develop logical and robust working methods, with an aim to reduce the chances for serious incidents to occur.     

Creating high-quality RAMS

It is clearly beneficial to produce high-quality method statements, but they can be difficult to get right. In fact, creating appropriate method statements is one of the biggest barriers to contractors successfully completing the CHAS health & safety assessment process.

There are no hard and fast rules for what to include and exclude from method statements, but there are some common mistakes to avoid. These include:

  • Repurposing old method statements. Method statements that include details of previous jobs show a lack of care and attention. If using a generic method statement template, make sure, at the very least, to review it for each task.
  • Neglecting to include project-specific detail. This is one of the most common reasons for method statements to be rejected. Hazards, site specification, location, teams, equipment and circumstances can all change from project to project and method statements should reflect this.
  • Failing to specify everyone who is at risk. Method statements should detail everyone who is at risk from a work activity. For example, if work is taking place near a public walkway, members of the public may be at risk in addition to site personnel.
  • Forgetting to review your method statements regularly. Some details of method statements are subject to change, for example control measures may need to be adapted because of varying weather conditions.
  • Referencing out-of-date legislation. If referencing rules and regulations, method statements should cite the latest versions. For example, the PPE Regulations, which are often referenced in method statements, are being updated on 6th April 2022. Keep up-to-date with latest Health & Safety Executive guidance on these changes here.

Four top tips for creating effective method statements

  1. Ensure method statements are bespoke and relevant to the task at hand.
  2. Use plain and concise language to reduce misunderstanding and steer clear of jargon and abbreviations.
  3. Consider using supporting images and diagrams as these can be helpful for project teams to follow.
  4. Use consistent branding and company logos on your paperwork to help portray an expert and trusted document. 

Further RAMS guidance

The HSE has helpful advice on RAMS. CHAS and HandsHQ provide software which allows RAMS to be customised and includes features such as a COSHH databases for chemical safety, where safety documents can be stored.

Alex Minett is head of products and markets at CHAS.

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Comments

  1. One of the problems I have found over the years with “method statements” is that they are often simply “task lists” stating what is to be done rather than how it is to be done.. as such I have rejected many “method statements” and had to hold workshops on the difference between a “task list” and a “method statement” for many sub-contractors and even some main contractors

  2. It’s so simple yet so often poorly executed. Failing at each of the points you have noted.
    The common approach I see amongst subcontractors here in New Zealand is to aim at the lowest possible standard. In my opinion that’s either due to laziness or lack of skill. Frustrates the heck out of me

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