Why keep records
Record keeping is not just ‘paperwork’, but has many purposes and benefits, including:
- demonstrating (to your workers, the regulator, investors, shareholders, customers and so on) that you’re effectively managing work health and safety and complying with the laws
- demonstrating how you made your decisions about safety issues
- providing a starting point for future decision making or risk assessments
- helping you target training for your workers, managers and supervisors for the key hazards in your workplace
- helping you review risks following any changes to legislation or your business activities.
What to document
The detail and extent of your records will depend on the size of your workplace and the potential for major safety issues. Keep information on:
- the identified hazards, assessed risks and chosen control measures. This includes any hazard checklists and forms, worksheets and assessment tools you used
- hazards, incidents, near misses and injuries that your workers tell you about
- how and when the control measures were implemented, monitored and reviewed
- who you consulted with
- training records, currency and refresher requirements
- any proposed plans for change in your workplace.
As well as the final version of any policy or procedure, you should keep:
- notes from consultation with your workers
- information gathered from suppliers/manufacturers.
Specific legal requirements
Under the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012, there are specific record keeping requirements for (but not limited to):
- risk assessments and safe work method statements (swms)
- incident reports
- health monitoring results
- inspections and modifications to registered plant
- training and licensing records.
You must make sure you are aware of and comply with the requirements and that the records are accessible and available when required.
Where to keep it
Your key safety documents must be easily accessible to everyone at your workplace.
A central collection or single manual in your office or online is great for audit purposes, but it might not be practical for your workers.
So spread them around your workplace:
- display policies on your noticeboard
- keep the a register of the chemicals used on your worksite printed out in their main storage area together with the Safety Data Sheets
- make safe work procedures into posters that are positioned near each piece of equipment.
Keeping your documents up to date
Out of date safety policies, plans and procedures are useless.
Once a year is generally a good timeframe for reviewing your documents. You should also review your documents if:
- they are not effectively managing the risk
- you identify new hazards or risks
- you introduce changes to your work environment, business or key personnel
- you get new equipment or chemicals
- consultation indicates you need to review them, or your workers ask you to review them
- you have an incident.
Keep past versions
Don’t shred them or completely overwrite your documents, as you may need to refer to these for legal and/or ‘knowledge preservation’ purposes.
So to make sure there’s no confusion, and no one can use them:
- clearly mark them as obsolete. A big red stamp or watermark across the page that says ‘replaced’ with a date may be all you need!
- move them into an archive area, whether that’s online or physical.
Make sure you tell everyone that there are new versions that should now be used. If you have documents displayed or used around your workplace, remove and replace them.
Get a system in place
Document control sounds bureaucratic but it’s simply a matter of noting dates, version numbers, status (draft or final/approved) and who authorised the versions.
It’s important that you can show your documents have been approved by the highest possible authority in your workplace.