Method statements are important documents for completing activities safely. It plans out how the activity will be done without harm. After all, a method statement is a description of how the work will be carried out safely.
Since method statements are usually only required in high-risk activities, it vital that they are thorough. You need to know that the hazards have been removed or controlled before you begin. But you also need to make sure that the method statement is clear and understood. After all, what use is a good plan if no one follows it?
The can make method statements difficult to write. Include too little and the activity becomes unsafe as shortcuts or failure to control risks happen during the work. Include too much and the important parts could be missed or ignored. So where should you start? What should you include? What should you leave out? Here are 10 tips for writing a method statement:
The first step in creating a method statement is a little bit of research. Take a look at the activity, the environment and the people who will be doing the work. You may have done this task hundreds of times, but each project is different, so check out if any site-specific hazards need addressing.
A risk assessment is an entirely different document, but one that needs to accompany your method statement. Risk assessments are a legal requirement and they will also help you to plan the work. Carry out your risk assessments before you plan the work. The 5 steps to risk assessment will help you identify hazards and controls. These two documents support each other, so make sure any controls you have identified in your risk assessment are covered in your method statement.
Think of a method statement as a safe system of work. A set of instructions to get you safely from start to finish. It is simply a plan of how you are going to carry out the work safely and what methods you will follow. Write down all the key steps that will need to be taken to complete the job. This will be your framework to plan out the activity and identify what key tasks need to be covered.
It’s a cliché, but failing to prepare is preparing to fail. It's easy to just focus on the task in hand, but what about any safety precautions needed before you begin? Think about what needs to be done before the task starts. Barriers, signage, temporary access etc. Do you need safe access? Do you need to warn others? Is the work going to make the area unsafe? Do you need an exclusion zone? Detail these safety measures in the method statement so that work doesn’t start until all of the requirements are in place.
Clearing up. Packing away. Removing restrictions and lock-offs. Testing. Signing off. Cancelling permits. There are often several requirements to make the work area safe again once the task is done. You might need to allow access to the area again, remove barriers and signage or cancel diversions. You may need to let people know that precautions that were in place are no longer there. Or that temporary rules don't apply anymore. Things like this can get forgotten, especially if the set-up was carried out some time ago, or work finishes near the end of a shift. Don’t assume it will be remembered, include it in your method statement.
Method statements are for higher risk activities. This type of work is often more tightly controlled, with a number of people having responsibilities for performing different roles in the task. In addition to those carrying out the work, there might be project manager involved. Or a supervisor. And someone else might be in charge of issuing a permit or installing access equipment. Detail those with responsibilities on the method statement, after all, everyone involved in a task has an important part to play.
Method statements need to be understood by various people. The client might want to review it. Supervisors need to check it. And, most importantly, the people doing the work need to follow it. A method statement template will help you with consistency, with each method statement you create following a standard format. This will make it easier to create your method statement. It will also be easier for those who need to read and understand the method statement to get to know the standard format you follow.
You can start with the free blank method statement template or develop your own!
It's no good just listing a bunch of controls in random order. You can't expect workers to work out what sequence to follow if you haven't provided clear directions. Imagine if your sat nav gave you a route in the wrong order, would you be able to work out where you needed to go? Your method statement needs to be a set of useful instructions, and your team should be able to work through it in a logical sequence. From A to B and so on.
A method statement needs to contain essential information. Information that will keep your workers (and others) safe. Don't bloat it with unnecessary content. Workers are not going to thank you for writing them a novel. If much of the information is things they already know, inaccurate or unhelpful, they are more likely to scan the document and might miss the important information hidden amongst the waffle. As well as a good layout, consider what information needs to be included. Keep it clear, concise and easy to understand.
And the award for the best method statement goes to... no, not that sort of acknowledgement! But for your method statement to be effective, it needs to be used. There could be a number of your team working to the method statement. Have they all read and understood it? Keep a record of this and get signatures before work starts.