July 30, 2014

Which Health & Safety records should you keep?

Keeping good Health & Safety records is the only way to stay on the right side of the law. But which ones should you keep and how long should you keep them?

Certain types of record should be kept to comply with the Health and Safety Policy of the company advice on matters of health and safety. In addition, specific records must be kept as a legal requirement which is embedded in specific pieces of legislation.

Keeping good health and safety records is important for the following reasons:

  • It ensures key information is easily retrievable, and can be passed on from one person to another, ensuring consistency and continuity;
  • It ensures that the Company  can demonstrate (internally and externally) compliance with our legal duties under health and safety law;
  • It makes the job of Health & Safety r easier if he/she knows what needs to  be done and when;
  • It enables senior managers to monitor health and safety performance;
  • It is a legal requirement, in many cases, to keep certain health and safety records available for inspection. Health and Safety Executive Inspectors and Union Health and Safety Representatives have a legal right to inspect health and safety records. Health & Safety Services staff and the company Health and Safety Committee will also want to periodically review Company / directorate health and safety records.

It should be noted that in cases of potential civil litigation, records might be requested by Solicitors acting on behalf of claimants, many years after the statutory need to keep records has expired. The advice of the Insurance should be sought as soon as possible, where records include personal data that would allow an individual to be identified, the requirements of the Data Protection Act apply.

Health and Safety Log-book

You may have been asked in the past to keep a chronological of health and safety log book / diary. There are some obvious problems with relying on this type of record system, since if you need to quickly identify, staffs who have received induction training, or when the last fire drill was held, you will have to thumb through the diary to the relevant date.

Development of your own recording system is recommended with a Health and Safety File that has sections for each type of health and safety record (training / risk assessments fire drills etc.)

This system may also included specific activities such as health and safety inspections or fire drills anniversary refresher training renewal dates

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The Health & Safety File

A  Health and Safety file which should be readily available for inspection. Files can be electronic, as long as they are easily and quickly retrievable, but ideally, a hard copy should be printed out for the Health and Safety File. The file should serve as the central health and safety record for the company. Details of the following should be kept in the file (where applicable):

1. A current list of names of individuals with key health and safety roles – e.g. risk assessors, DSE assessors, first aiders (include date certificates expire), fire evacuation officers, Union Health and Safety Representatives working in the area etc.

2. A copy of the Health and Safety Code / Company Health and Safety Policy, and projected date for review

3. Copies of other local health and safety policies, procedures or guidance given to staff or students

4. A Register of Risk Assessments Completed for the Company Health and Safety Risk Assessment

5. Copies of Risk assessments*, including (where applicable):

  • General risk assessments;
  • COSHH assessments;
  • Display Screen equipment workstation assessments;
  • Fire risk assessments;
  • Manual Handling operations;
  • Machinery / equipment;
  • Lifting equipment and lifting operations;
  • Fieldwork risk assessments;
  • Lone working;
  • Noise and vibration;
  • Risk of violence and aggression;
  • Social events risk assessments;
  • Student Supervision forms (if used);
  • Work in confined spaces, work at height etc.
  • Genetic modification activity risk assessments.

*Note that in most cases, the risk assessment should be carried out by the person in control of the work, and this may well not be the the should obtain copies of risk assessments from those actually performing the assessments, and remind those individuals when a reassessment is due.

  • Completed Accident Records Sheets [removed from the Accident Book] – or at least details of where these and the Accident Book are kept;
  • Copies of any Accident Report Form sent to Health and Safety Services, plus the report of any investigation made into the accident / incident and details of any remedial action taken following

An accident or incident;

  • Details of emergency procedures – e.g. fire evacuation, procedures to deal with a chemical / biological or radiological spillage, location of first aid kits and first aiders etc.
  • Date and findings of Health and Safety Inspections of the Area; together with details of any actions / timescales to be taken following such an inspections;
  • Record of Portable Electrical Appliance tests, remedial action required / effected, and dates for repeat of test;
  • Copies Material Safety Data Sheets
  • Inspection and statutory examination reports relating to equipment or plant (or at least a reference to what other records are kept and where these can be found) – such as respiratory protective equipment, fume cupboards, dust extraction, pressure systems, lifting equipment, gas fired equipment etc.
  • Results of monitoring of designated radiation areas;
  • other equipment maintenance and service records (or at least a reference to what other records are kept and where these can be found);
  • Fire Drill Records – dates and performance [clearance time; details of any problems, etc.];
  • Health and safety training records – names, dates and course title for health and safety training provided / attended (include local training such as health and safety induction; courses provided by Health & Safety Services, and external courses) – plus projected date for refresher training;
  • Copies of completed health and safety induction checklists (for new staff);
  • Copies of annual health and safety audit checklists and action plans;
  • Minutes of meetings of the Area Health and Safety Committee [if applicable] and copy of terms of reference, membership etc.;
  • Copies of memos and reports received following visits from Health & Safety Services staff, occupational Health Service staff or Health and Safety Executive / Environmental Health Inspectors, including a note of action taken to remedy any shortcomings identified;
  • Waste disposal consignment notes (if applicable);
  • Copies of Safety Matters newsletter;
  • Any other health and safety records relevant to the area in question.

How long health and safety records should be kept?

Five years is a good rule thumb for most health and safety records.

Risk assessment records should be kept as long as the particular process or activity, to which the assessments refer, is performed. Examination of past assessments allows changes and improvements to be identified.

Also, civil claims for injury can be made up to 3 years after an incident, so it is a good idea to also keep risk assessments relating to the previous 3 years.

Some records relating to health or environmental risks must be kept for longer periods.

Keeping health records

Health records are not medically confidential documents. They provide feedback to management on the results of health surveillance, both for the purpose of safely deploying each employee and allowing collective analysis of the overall effectiveness of immunisation for staff at risk. Health records also allow for outcome analysis of ill health from BBV exposure to be done at a later stage (should this prove necessary),.

Health records – those showing the outcome of occupational health surveillance – should be held by and available to managers responsible for deploying staff. The only exception is when an employer can demonstrate that reasonable access to these records is available to such managers whenever the relevant staff are working (e.g. through health records retained by an occupational health department).

There are additional provisions for health records relating to work with biological agents, such as a historical record of work with – or exposure to – blood-borne viruses. This is particularly relevant for:

Infectious agents that have the potential to cause persistent or latent infections, or which may have serious long-term consequences (i.e. Hazard Group 3 biological agents)

  • BBVs with potential for causing sub-clinical, chronic infections (regarded as Category 1 Carcinogens), such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

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About the author

Stacey Rowe