What is a safety file?
In the construction industry, a Safety file is a collection of documents regarding the type of work being done on a specific site. Each safety file is compiled for a specific site, and cannot be used for any other sites. 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 principal contractor or contractor, big or small must have a complete safety file for the construction site that they are working on. Whether they are new to the scene or are an established contractor, whether they have 1 or 1000 employees on site, there is no legal way around it.
But what if you use subcontractors?
Contractors, like all principal contractors, must have their own safety file. There is a very general misconception that you can make use of (sub)contractors and just slot their activities into your safety file as if they were your own employees, the truth is that you cannot and should not. The contractor is an entity on its own and not your employee.
Other contractors are not covered by your Workman’s Compensation or your Public Liability Insurance. In short, you are playing with the future of your business if you make use of contractors and think that they are covered by your safety documentation without having any file or records of their own.