A Health and Safety File – The only file for a contractor


Introduction to a Safety File

A Health and Safety File, otherwise known as a Safety File, can be simply defined as a record of information which focuses on the management of health and safety on-site for both contractors as well as subcontractors. The safety file ensures that the employer is protected from criminal liability in addition to proving compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

A Health and Safety File is the only file necessary for the health and safety of contractors as well as subcontractors. It was initially introduced by the Construction Regulations of 1994 and continued in 2007. However, it was revoked in 2015 when the Construction Design and Management 2015 came into force, with the new requirements having retained the need for a health and safety file.

This file is often misunderstood but when it is complied with, as intended by the regulations, it can offer a powerful management and information tool, working to protect those who are working on, or who will work on, future projects.

It is therefore imperative to explore the legal requirements where the safety file is concerned, whose responsibility it is, whether it fits its purpose, and what it should and should not contain.

Safety File

Legal Requirements of the Health and Safety File

It is the duty of the principal designer to prepare a health and safety file, bearing in mind that the principal designer is only appointed for certain projects where there is more than one contractor. This means that the health and safety file will subsequently only be formally required for projects consisting of more than one contractor.

During the pre-construction phase of a project, the principal designer is tasked with preparing the health and safety file which contains the appropriate characteristics associated with the project. Therefore, the file contains information relating specifically to the project.

It also contains what will be needed to ensure health and safety compliance of those involved with the project and similar future projects. The principal designer is also tasked with the duty to ensure that the file is reviewed, updated, and revised frequently to ensure that there is accountability of the work. 

Any changes which may occur during the project must also be noted and they should be covered in the health and safety file. The principal contractor is tasked with the duty of providing the principal designer with the relevant information required for inclusion in the health and safety file.

Designers must also provide any relevant information that the principal designer will require in the compilation of the health and safety file. Should the appointment of the principal designer expire before the project completion, the duties which relate to the health and safety file will be passed onto the principal contractor.

When the project reaches completion, the principal designer or contractor must pass the health and safety file onto the client.


What is the purpose of the Health and Safety File?

The purpose of the Health and Safety file is abundantly clear. It is a file which contains information which must be complied with to ensure that people on projects are protected, whether currently or on future projects.

As such, the health and safety file serve as a vital source of information which must form part of any, and all, health and safety management systems which must be in place for the project.

Employers are required, by law, to have health and safety arrangements in place to ensure effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring, and review of measures to ensure the health and safety of people.

Health and Safety Site File

What must the Health and Safety File contain?

The following information must be considered and included in the Health and Safety file:

  • A brief description of the work which will be carried out.
  • Any hazards which could not be eliminated either through design and construction processes and how they will be addressed.
  • Key structural principles such as bracing of substantial stored energy.
  • Hazardous materials used.
  • Information pertaining to the removal or dismantling of installed plant and equipment.
  • Health and safety information regarding equipment which is provided for cleaning and/or maintaining the structure.
  • The nature as well as the location and marking of services such as underground cables, gas supply equipment or any fire-fighting services.
  • Information and as-built drawings of the building as well as its plant and equipment.
  • The contractor’s appointment letter as per Construction Regulation 5(3)(f) of the OHS A) 37(2) Agreement between the client and the contractor.
  • The notification of construction work.
  • A copy of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
  • The Occupational Health and Safety Management Plan.
  • The Occupational Health and Safety Policy of the company.
  • Letter of Good Standing.
  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for hazardous materials which will be used, if this is applicable to the work that will be performed by the contractor/subcontractor.
  • Tax clearance certificate.
  • Risk Assessments.
  • Site-Specific Safe Work Procedures.
  • Legal appointments along with proof of training.
  • Procedures pertaining to incident reporting.
  • Incident reports as per General Administrative Regulation 9(3) – Annexure 1
  • Incident registers
  • Reports of accidents.
  • Documents pertaining to emergency readiness.
  • First aid documents
  • Induction records
  • Medical surveillance records
  • Safety Communication such as Toolbox Talks
  • Minutes of previous safety meetings
  • Inspection Registers, and more.

Items that need not be contained in the file include, but is not limited to:

  • Pre-construction information or the phase plan for construction.
  • Risk assessments done in the construction phase, written system of work of any assessments adopted during the project.
  • Details pertaining to normal operations of the completed structure.
  • Construction phase accident statistics.
  • Details pertaining to the contractors and the designers who are involved in the project. However, information on the principal contractor and designer may prove useful.
  • Contractual documents.
  • Information regarding structures or parts of structures which have been demolished unless there are any implications that will impact on future structures.
  • Information contained in any other documents. However, relevant cross-references may be included in the file.


Where must the file be kept, and what other requirements are there?

The Health and Safety file must be kept in a location which allows convenient access. It must also be kept either in paper or electronic form. Should it be kept electronically, there must be suitable back-up arrangements in place.

The level of detail associated with the file must be proportionate with the risks involved. There is effort as well as the resources expended in compiling the file must also be proportionate to the risks involved with the project.

In addition, the file must be kept up to date and it must be retained for as long as it remains relevant, which translates to the lifetime of a structure. Should clients dispose of their interest in a structure, the file must be passed onto the new owners. The new owners must also be made aware of the nature as well as the purpose of the file.

Where a part of the structure is sold, any relevant information contained in the file must be passed onto, or copied, onto the new owner. Should the client lease all or a part of the structure, there must be adequate arrangements made for the health and safety file to be available to the leaseholders.

The file might, at times, be transferred to the leaseholder for the duration of their lease. In any other cases, the client may keep the file, but inform leaseholders of its existence and availability.


How can SafetyWallet help Employers and Contractors’ Health and Safety Compliance?

SafetyWallet works to ensure that its subscribers are supported and assisted in all matters relating to health and safety, and through a partnership with MAKROSAFE and OHS Online, subscribers can ensure that they are a part in creating a safer, healthier, and more compliant working environment. To find out how you can ensure employer and contractor’s Health and Safety compliance, Contact Us.

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Posted date: 28th Feb 2021