When a project comes under CDM15, a Health and Safety file must be produced (see HSE Guidance L153 “Managing Health and Safety in Construction”). The duty to prepare a health and safety file during the pre-construction phase is that of the Principal Designer, who will only be appointed for those construction projects with more than one contractor. So, in practice, the health and safety file will only be formally required for those projects which have more than one contractor. Safer Sphere would advise that the Health and Safety file is prepared, reviewed or updated as appropriate for all projects, irrespective of the number of contractors working on a project.
The contents of this file should be agreed at the start of the project, between the Principal Designer and the Client and should reflect the appropriate characteristics of the project. Safer Sphere have experience in assisting Principal Designers and in advising Clients on the contents of a Health and Safety File.
The Health and Safety file contains details of record information and residual risks that future construction work may be exposed to. The information contained within the Health and Safety File is therefore considerably important when managing health and safety in any future construction. Information that can be found in a health and safety file will aid any future cleaning and maintenance of the building or structure, alterations and refurbishment and any demolition work. The exact contents of the file depends on the requirements of the Client and the scope of the construction work.
CDM Health and Safety File Contents List.
Each Health and Safety file will be as unique as each build and will contain all the health and safety information relevant to the initial project and any subsequent work. When considering what should be included in the Health and Safety File, while not an exhaustive list, the following items should be considered:
- A brief description of the work carried out
- Any hazards that have not been eliminated through the design and construction processes, and how they have been addressed (e.g. surveys or other information concerning asbestos or contaminated land);
- Key structural principles (e.g. bracing, sources of substantial stored energy – including pre- or post-tensioned members) and safe working loads for floors and roofs;
- Hazardous materials used (e.g. lead paints and special coatings);
- Information regarding the removal or dismantling of installed plant and equipment (e.g. any special arrangements for lifting such equipment);
- Health and safety information about equipment provided for cleaning or maintaining the structure;
- The nature, location and markings of significant services, including underground cables; gas supply equipment; fire-fighting services etc;
- Information and as-built drawings of the building, its plant and equipment (e.g. the means of safe access to and from service voids and fire doors).
There should be enough detail to allow the likely risks to be identified and addressed by those carrying out the work, however, the level of detail should be proportionate to the risks. The file should not include things that will be of no help when planning future construction work such as pre-construction information, the construction phase plan, contractual documents, safety method statements etc. Information must be in a convenient form, clear, concise and easily understandable.
It is the responsibility of the Client to ensure that the Principal Designer prepares the health and safety file for a project, also ensuring regular updates and formal reviews are carried out as the project develops to take account of progress and any changes to the construction site with time. It may come to pass that the Principal Designer’s appointment is completed before the end of the project, in which case, the Principal Designer must pass responsibility for the upkeep of the Health and Safety file to the Principal Contractor.
What Happens To The Health and Safety File Upon Completion?
Once the project is finished, the Principal Designer (or the Principal Contractor) should issue the health and safety file to the Client. The Client must then keep the file and ensure it is available to anyone who may need it for as long the contents are relevant. Any subsequent construction, maintenance or deconstruction can then comply with the established health and safety requirements. A Client may in the future pass on his interest in the building or part of the building to another individual or organisation. If this occurs, they must provide the file to the new client who takes on the duties and ensure that the new client is aware of the nature and purpose of the file. This applies to either sale or lease of the building or part of it.
Information that is redundant when planning construction work does not need to be included in a Health and Safety file. Any pre-construction information can be omitted. There is no need to include the names and addresses of the original designers or contractors involved in the project, over time, some companies and practices may disappear. While some clients insist on Risk Assessments, method statements and CoSHH assessments for work that has been previously carried out are included, this is not really necessary, as future work should only be carried out following a project specific assessment of the risks, this will differ from the original construction somewhat.
When a project being undertaken already has an existing Health and Safety file, the Principal Designer must include this information in the Pre-Construction Plan so that contractors and designers can take this information into account.
The importance of a Health and Safety file cannot be overstated, but the file is only as useful as the information contained within it. The information should be relevant, accurate and kept up to date. If properly maintained, the Health and Safety file can help prevent accidents and incidents of ill health. Files that are filled with unhelpful, irrelevant or unnecessary information which will be of little use and without proper advice and document maintenance, may actually be an obstacle to the management of health and safety on a construction project.
Safer Sphere can assist with project compliance in relation to Health & Safety files in our offerings of Client CDM Advisors and or Principal Designer Advisors.