What is a health and safety file and why is it necessary

Table of Contents

The article below is a guideline as to what a health and safety file is, what it should consist of and how it can can assist you in your organization. A health and safety file is a comprehensive file that contains all your organizations relevant health and safety documentation as stipulated in the ohs act. Your safety file is a working file and is not meant to sit on the shelf and gather dust.

There are mainly two types of files that can be put in place, depending on the type of working environment you find yourself in.

The generic or office health and safety file is the file that contains all your organizations health and safety documentation like policies, procedures, risk assessments, training records, appointment letters etc. Why would you need a generic or office health and safety file, the answer is simple, it is a requirement of the ohs act that every organization shall have the relevant health and safety documentation in place that will assist the organization in implementing, managing, controlling and monitoring its health and safety programme.

The site specific health and safety file is a file specifically drawn up and related to specific work on a specific site. In this file you will most likely find all relevant health and safety policies, procedures, training records, method statements, site specific risk assessments, MSDS, letter of good standing, section 37.2 contractors agreement, medical certificates etc. The reason for the site specific health and safety file is that it is also a legal requirement under the OHS Act, but the main difference between the 2 health and safety files is that the site specific health and safety file needs to comply with the clients health and safety requirements as stipulated in the section 37.2 contractors agreement.

The OHS Act, sections and different regulations

Occupational Health and Safety Act – No 85 of 1993:

‘To provide for the health and safety of persons at work and for the health and safety in connection with the use of plant and machinery; the protection of persons other than those at work against hazards to health and safety arising out of or in connection with the activities of persons at work; to establish an advisory council for occupational health and safety; to provide for matters connected therewith’

The above paragraph is the introduction paragraph you will find when you open the OHS Act. In this paragraph it states the main objective of the OHS Act is to provide for a health and safe working environment for all irrespective of the industry you find yourself working in.

There are 50 sections and 21 different health and safety regulations in the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act. The 50 section in the OHS Act are the “rules” that every organization shall comply with and the health and safety regulations are the “guidelines” set as a minimum requirement to be met with for the health and safety regulations that apply to each individual organization.

From the 21 health and safety regulations some may not be relevant to your organization for example the “Explosive Regulations” if you are working in a normal admin/office environment.

The following health and safety regulations must be complied with irrespective of the type of organization you are working in:

  • General Administrative Regulations
  • General Safety Regulations
  • Environmental Regulations for Workplaces
  • Facilities Regulations

Majority of people believe that the Construction Regulations are only relevant to the construction industry, but if you look at the definition in the OHS Act of construction work you will notice that the Construction Regulations will apply to most organizations at some point.

“construction work” means any work in connection with –

(a) the construction, erection, alteration, renovation, repair, demolition or dismantling of or

addition to a building or any similar structure; or

(b) the construction, erection, maintenance, demolition or dismantling of any bridge, dam,

canal, road, railway, runway, sewer or water reticulation system; or the moving of earth, clearing

of land, the making of excavation, piling, or any similar civil engineering structure or type of work;

Be sure to refer to the Construction Regulations in the OHS Act the next time you are thinking of doing any form of repair, maintenance or alterations in your current organization. What should a health and safety file contain and is the content generic to all industries.

As previously mentioned the health and safety file is a file that contains all health and safety documentation for an organization.

The content of the health and safety file will be specific to each individual organization and each project. Be careful when doing research about a health and safety file as a lot of “Fly by night OHS companies / OHS Practitioners” will sell you a generic health and safety file that they pulled from the internet.

The main content for the “office” health and safety file should at least include the following documentation as a minimum criteria:

  1.     Health & Safety Policies
  2.     Health & Safety organorgram, appointment letters and certificates
  3.     Health & Safety committee meetings and minutes
  4.     Health & Safety risk assessments
  5.     Health & Safety quarterly inspections
  6.     Health & Safety incident reports and records
  7.     Evacuation drills and preparedness
  8.     Health & Safety contractor management
  9.     Health & Safety communication and newsletters
  10. Letter of good standing and coc’s
  11. Emergency contact details
  12. Additional health & safety information and documentation

The content for the site specific health and safety file be dependant on the specifications given by the client to the principal contractor. Who can assist with supplying a health and safety file?

When doing an enquiry about an external person/organization who will be able to assist your organization with putting a health and safety file together for your organization be very careful in choosing the correct individual/organization.

As previously mentioned there are a lot of “fly by night people and organizations” out there that will not hesitate to charge you an arm and a leg for a copied  document from the internet. Do some research before making an informed decision as to who you would ask to assist you with this vital piece of health and safety documentation as this health and safety files almost “dictates”how you will run health and safety in your organization.

What else must take place or occur within the organization or company apart from the file?

Apart from having your health and safety file in the organization you should as per the OHS Act have people managing, implementing, monitoring and controlling your health and safety system. This will include people like the:

  • CEO also known as the 16.1
  • An appointed 16.2, someone who will manage health and safety as per the direction from the 16.1
  • A trained OHS manager/supervisor
  • Trained and appointed health and safety representatives
  • Trained and appointed first aiders
  • Trained and appointed fire wardens
  • Trained and appointed evacuation marshalls
  • Trained and appointed risk assessor
  • Trained and appointed incident investigator


Remember that health and safety as per the OHS Act must be reasonable and practicable when implementing health and safety within your organization. Just because you  have a file does not mean that you are compliant in terms of the OHS Act. OHS is a constant everyday tool that you need to manage, implement, monitor and control with the assistance from your OHS team as well as all your employees. Create a health and safety culture in your organization with buy-in from all stakeholders in order to make health and safety part of your daily life in your organization.

Absolute Health Services are willing and able to assist you and your organization in creating, managing, implementing, monitoring and controlling a health and safety system in order to create a health and safe working environment for all.

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