What is a Health and Safety File?

Health and Safety File

You must prepare a Health and Safety File if you’re in charge of a construction project. This is one of many legal requirements placed on construction projects by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015).

The CDM 2015 places a heavy responsibility on site managers to protect their crews because construction is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. The sector regularly sees more workplace fatalities than any other in the UK.

In this guide, we explore what the file is, including its purpose, what goes into it and who’s responsible for making one.

Why is a Health and Safety File Required?

A Health and Safety File (HSF) must be prepared for any project that involves more than one contractor.

The HSF is a collection of the relevant health and safety information workers will need in the future when carrying out works on your completed project.

Think of the file as an ‘operator’s manual’ for the building’s future use.  It allows crews to safely plan for any subsequent cleaning, maintenance, refurbishments or demolition of the structure.

Health and Safety Courses

Our Health and Safety Training courses provide trainees with vital information to conduct their work healthily and safely. These courses help explore legal duties, hazards and risk controls that employees must be aware of.

Who is Responsible for a Health and Safety File?

Everyone involved in the project will contribute to the HSF in some way but the CDM 2015 charges certain people with specific legal duties.

The Principal Designer

The principal designer is ultimately responsible for the creation of the HSF.

They must:

  • Work with the client to agree on the HSF’s structure and format as early as possible
  • Gather relevant health and safety information from the project team
  • Consistently review the file, making sure information is accurate and up-to-date at every stage of the project
construction health and safety courses

The Client

The client is the individual having the construction work carried out.

They must:

  • Ensure that the principal designer is preparing the HSF
  • Take possession of the HSF after the project is completed
  • Keep the HSF and make it available to anyone who needs it in the future
  • Pass the HSF on to the new owner if the structure or site is sold

The Principal Contractor

The principal contractor must:

  • Contribute to the preparation of the HSF
  • Provide any relevant health and safety information
  • Take on the responsibility of producing the HSF if the principal designer leaves the project before completion

Other Contractors and Designers

There are no specific legal duties put on other contractors and designers but they should still share any information that’s relevant for the HSF with the principal designer.

What Should be Included in the Health and Safety File?

The HSF only needs to contain information that will be relevant to future work on the structure or site.

This usually includes:

  • An overview of the project and work being carried out
  • Hazards that haven’t been eliminated through the design and construction phases and how they’ve been addressed
  • Background information on the building’s structure, form and potential limitations, for example safe working loads for floors and roofs
  • A record of hazardous materials used, such as lead paints or special coatings
  • The type, location and markings of relevant services, such as underground cables, gas supply equipment and fire-fighting services
  • General information, including as-built drawings depicting safe means of access to service areas

What Shouldn’t be Included?

You should only include information in the file that will be relevant to future works.

This means you generally shouldn’t include:

  • Risk assessments completed during the construction phase
  • Records of any accidents during the construction phase
  • Contact details of the designers and contractors involved
  • Information relating to the operation and maintenance of the structure

Any unnecessary information just makes preparing the HSF more difficult. It will also potentially make it harder for crews to find the information they need in the future.

When Should a Health and Safety File be Produced?

As soon as possible. It’s easier to make decisions related to the project and preparation of the HSF if you start collecting information early on.

The HSF must also be kept for as long as it’s relevant. This generally means for the lifetime of the structure or site.

What Format Should a Health and Safety File Take?

There’s no specific format outlined by the CDM 2015 but the HSF needs to be easily accessible for the lifetime of the structure or site it relates to. This usually means that it’s easier to create digital files.

Whatever format the file takes, it’s best practice to create a backup and have a physical copy. This will ensure the HSF is always available.

Where to Learn More About CDM Requirements

For managers, site safety is a constant consideration. Attending construction health and safety courses and providing crews with health and safety at work online training helps with this. But your responsibilities start long before you step on to a construction site.

Knowing exactly what’s expected of you, including your contributions to the Health and Safety File, is critical to protect workers and keep your projects running smoothly.

Our Construction, Design and Management course gives site managers the skills and knowledge to do this. You’ll learn CDM 2015 legislation, duty holder responsibilities and the phases of a CDM 2015 project, so you can manage your next project confidently, compliantly and safely.

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Jonathan Goby
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