Most businesses will have been required to provide a method statement at some stage, but why do we need these documents and are they a legal requirement?
It is the law under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) that every employer and self-employed shall carry out a risk assessment of any risks to the health and safety of employees or other persons. In fact, risk assessments are so important they have their own section (Section 3).
But a method statement is not a risk assessment, so what does the law say about method statements?
Well, method statements don’t have their own section under the MHSWR. Method statements are not even mentioned under MHSWR.
So, if method statements are not a specific legal requirement, like risk assessments are, under the MHSWR, then we can just forget about them?
No, not really.
The MHSWR section 5 does require employers to make appropriate arrangements for planning, organising and controlling work activities.
5.(1) Every employer shall make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, having regard to the nature of his activities and the size of his undertaking, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.
Such arrangements can be detailed within a method statement document.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA) also has a requirement under ‘General duties’ for employers to provide ‘such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary’.
Method statements provide information to employees about how the work should be done and the precautions to be taken. They would therefore come under the banner of ‘information and instruction’, and maybe necessary, depending on the work being carried out.
Whether you need a method statement will usually be a consideration of the risk level, how complex or unusual the work is. Higher risk work may require extra information and instruction, and this can be delivered in the form of a method statement.
Safety method statements are often used in the construction industry, and it is often a requirement from Clients and Principal Contractors for the production of method statement before certain activities can commence.
Method statements can be part of a requirement for health and safety accreditation schemes and health and safety management systems.
For example, a requirement of PAS91 (standardised construction pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ)) under question C4-Q12 is to provide evidence of ‘relevant risk assessments and for developing and implementing safe systems of work (method statements)’.
While they may not be a specific legal requirement, method statements are a way of complying with the law by making appropriate arrangements for preventive and protective measures, and providing information and instruction to the workforce.