The ‘Safety File’ for construction projects is also called many other things; e.g. handover file, operation & maintenance manuals, health & safety file. These files can also vary widely in terms of the contents.
The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013 set out the requirements for a Safety File to be prepared, with clear responsibilities for contractors, the Project Supervisor Construction Stage (PSCS), Project Supervisor Design Process (PSDP), designers and the client. However, the regulations are vague on the precise contents of the Safety File.
The regulations require that a written safety file is prepared “appropriate to the characteristics of the project, containing relevant safety and health information … to be taken into account during any subsequent construction work”.
The main parties responsible for collation and gathering of information for the safety file are:
Coordinate arrangements among contractors to gather the required information and provide all relevant information to the PSDP.
Collate design and specification information from the design team, to include with the PSCS information. Promptly deliver this safety file to the client, following project completion.
The client is required to keep the safety file available and make it available to anyone undertaking future construction work on the property. The client is also required to provide the safety file to subsequent owners of the property, and this transfer will form part of the conveyancing process.
The contents of the safety file can vary depending on the nature of the project and requirements of the clients, but will generally include:
- General information on the project, including design team, PSCS, contractors and suppliers
- Construction drawings and specifications
- As-built drawings for services and utilities
- BCAR design certificates
- Commissioning certificates for mechanical, electrical and fire safety systems
- Information and certification for the materials used
- Operation & Maintenance manuals for the mechanical & electrical systems
- Maintenance and cleaning procedures
- Documents issued by the PSDP and PSCS to demonstrate compliance; e.g. AF1, AF2, Preliminary Safety & Health Plan, Construction Safety & Health Plan
The safety file can contain a significant amount of information and can be burdensome to collate at the completion stage of a project. Therefore, it is important that the PSDP discussed and confirms the safety file requirements with the client and design team during the design stages of the project. The PSDP then needs to communicate the safety file requirements to the PSCS soon after appointment, and regularly track progress during construction.
Previously, the safety file would have been issued and maintained as a hard-copy series of folders, with large projects requiring a room, or site container, to store it. However, most safety files are now collated, issued and stored electronically; in the process saving time and space. Though, it is important to ensure the IT system is robust, with backups, as the client has a duty to maintain the safety file.
As PSCS (H&S Coordinator) and PSDP on projects, we work on the safety file from early in the projects, in order to ensure that the correct information is collated in a timely manner and promptly issued to the client. We have also completed a number of independent reviews of the contents of the safety file, comparing the information to the client requirements, regulations and good practice.