What is a safety file?

You have submitted your quotation and just received the confirmation that the project is yours, maybe the excitement is even bigger because it’s the first time that you are doing a project for this client. It’s a big client and you have been trying for ages to get onto their vendor list, but the excitement is short lived, they have asked you for your safety file. Your what?

Confusion sets in

You have no idea what a safety file is or where to start. You open Google and start searching, you think this cant be so difficult, it’s probably only some type of document that they want. Then you start realizing it’s not so straightforward. You click on link after link on your search results, you read blogs, you search more and more but you cant find the quick solutions that you where hoping for. The more you search the more you get confused and the more your frustration grows. You just can’t seem to find a clear description of what a safety file is.

You are not alone

You are not the only one asking this question. Most contractors, especially the smaller contractors, have no idea what a safety file is, why it exists, what should be in it or what it is used for. Hundreds upon hundreds of contractors are in the exact same situation. Some of them due to pure ignorance, others due to a lack of knowledge.

The problem

For many years contractors, big and small, got away with presenting a safety file when they perform a job for a client. It was in general an accepted practice to quote or tender for a project, get the job and get on site and do the work. Over the years this started changing. Every day more workers got injured on sites and more fatalities occurred. The Department Of Labour simply had no option but to get more strict with the enforcement of Health And Safety Regulations.

The main contractors where the first to get up to date with their health and safety purely because the spotlight was on them and not on the smaller contractors. The result is that subcontractors in general were left uneducated regarding Health and Safety and specifically safety files.

So what is a safety file then?

In short it is a file that consists of a collection of documents regarding your business, the type of work you do and completed for that¬†specific site, yes that’s correct, every safety file is site specific and cannot be used for all sites.

Let’s see what Legislation says. The Construction Regulations defines it as follows –¬† “health and safety file” means a file, or other record containing the information in writing required by these Regulations;”

In Construction Regulation 7 (1)(b) it stipulates that a principal contractor and contractor must – “open and keep on site a health and safety file, which must include all documentation required in terms of the Act and these Regulations, which must be made available on request to an inspector, the client, the client’s agent or a contractor; …”

What it comes down to

Every contractor, principal, big or small must have a completed safety file for the construction site that they are working on. It does not make a difference if you are new to contracting or have done the same work for a 100 years, whether you have 1 or 1000 employees on site. There is no legal way around it.

But what if you use subcontractors?

The same implies. They become a contractor and must have their own safety file. There is a very general misconception that you can make use of subcontractors and just slot them into your safety file as if they were your own employees, the truth is that you cannot and should not. You might get away with it a few times, until their is an incident on a site. The subcontractor is an entity on it’s own, they are not your employees.

They are not covered by your Workman’s Compensation and in most cases not by your Public Liability Insurance. In short, you are playing with the future of your business if you make use of subcontractors and they are slotted into your safety file without having any file or records of their own or even worse, You don’t even have a safety file of your own.

You can watch the video version here.

So what is in a safety file

That will be the topic of our next blog but in the meantime please contact us with all of your Health And safety queries, concerns or questions.

We are here to help.