Contractor Health and Safety Site File and an Employer's (clients) Legal Requirements


Small and medium business entities (SMEs) as well as business owners in South Africa face various challenges, and for this reason it is imperative that all employers ensure that an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) file is compiled. This is often a challenge as employers may not know precisely what must be included in their file.

The contractor Health and Safety File and an Employer’s (clients) legal requirements therefore deserves further exploration and elaboration, aiding employers in ensuring that they conform with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (85 of 1993).

The OHS file is an important, documented record compiled by trained and competent OHS practitioners or an OHS team. South African contractors must not be allowed, in terms of legislation, access to any worksites without the proper file and contents in place.

South Africa is known for its challenges with unemployment, poverty, and a lack of proper education. Some small entrepreneurs who are starting out with business may not have either the finance or the appropriate knowledge needed to ensure OHS implementation, compliance, and/or execution.

And for this reason, it is necessary to explore the health and safety file and legal requirements that employers are subjected to, providing such small businesses with the necessary tools and information that they need to ensure that they can comply with OHSA, which will inevitably bring them more opportunities, as compliant contractors, and allow for business expansion and more exposure.

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Do I need an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) file for my next project?

Legislation in South Africa does not leave any question as to whether an employer requires an OHS file when working on worksites. There are various legal documents required before a contractor can start working on any site regardless of whether the project will last a week or several years.

The principal contractor, if there is more than one contractor on the worksite, will set out the requirements of the OHS file as per the health and safety specifications drafted by the principal contractor itself.

This takes into consideration the size, duration and the work performed during the project along with any relevant legislation. The OHS specification sets out the OHS requirements and legal documents for the specific project, which is then issued to the contractor or subcontractor.

The legally required documents are voluminous, and together they form an entire file. When maintenance is being done on a project, whether it is in a private residence, office building, mining site, construction site, or others, the OHS file is required.

The OHS file must be available on the worksite before any work can commence. Often, the OHS file must first be approved by management and signed by all personnel who are working on the site before they can start working.


What is the importance of an OHS file?

Both the compilation and communication of the OHS file may be overwhelming and tedious for smaller projects or others, where only maintenance must be done. For this reason, some contractors may be advised to proceed without a proper OHS file. However, if an incident or accident occurs, both the contractor and the client can face severe consequences.

The employer, or client, has a legal obligation to ensure that a safe and healthy work environment is provided for all employees. This includes that proper procedures are in place to create such an environment.

Should the employer fail to implement the necessary procedures and processes to create a safe and healthy work environment, both the employer and employees are subsequently exposed to substantial risks, with the employer facing substantial legal sanctions which could include hefty fines and even imprisonment, while the employee faces serious physical injury and even death.


Can I compile my own OHS file?

Employers can take responsibility for compiling their own OHS file if they are familiar with their client’s daily activities. However, there are several documents in terms of legislation that must be compiled and approved by a competent person that has specific certification.

For example, a Fall Protection Plan must be in the OHS file where work will be done at heights and this requires a certified Fall Protection Plan Developer. It is for this reason that many companies outsource the services of professionals such as SafetyWallet in aiding with such requirements.


What does an OHS file look like?

Most OHS files will follow a certain pattern and, depending on the daily activities that employees perform, will include, but not be limited to, the following documents:

  • Baseline Risk Assessments as well as Task Specific Risk Assessments.
  • Occupational Health and Safety Management Plan.
  • Fall Protection and Rescue Plan.
  • Contractual Documents.
  • Safe Operating Work Procedures.
  • Emergency numbers, evacuation plans, and other emergency related documents.
  • Incident reporting as well as investigation procedures.
  • COIDA documents.
  • Employee details which include IDs, Drivers’ licenses, medicals, and others.
  • Registers as well as checklist of all machinery and equipment.
  • Daily safety toolbox talks, Planned Task Observations (PTOs), Daily safety task inspections, and more.
  • Company policies, and
  • All other management plans which are relevant to the work being performed.


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

In a world which is constantly changing, with new and stricter regulations, it is becoming increasingly difficult to always ensure full compliance. SafetyWallet helps and supports its subscribers despite the industry in which they operate or the number of employees and contractors under their responsibility.

With SafetyWallet and its 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 employers’ and contractor Health and Safety, click here.



Posted date: 13th Mar 2021