In brief

  • Regulators call for documentation when investigating a workplace incident and legal compliance.
  • Accordingly, businesses should keep good records to assist in reducing potential prosecutions.
  • Documents should evidence compliance with legal obligations, and should be current, complete and easy to locate.
  • This article provides a list of seven key safety matters that should be well documented.  

While record keeping is generally not mandated under occupational health and safety legislation, our experience is that businesses often face prosecutions in situations where they do not have documents to evidence their safe systems of work, hazard identification and risk assessment processes, and training regimes.

One recent example of this involved a company which was unable to provide the regulator with any training documentation because it had implemented a buddy system in what was essentially an illiterate workforce. Although the buddy system was referred to in various statements made by employees, the company was still charged with failing to provide its employees with adequate information, instruction and training.

Effective document management requires organisations to ensure that documents evidencing compliance with legal obligations are current, complete and easily locatable. From a corporate memory perspective it should also be ensured that, where possible, documents are dated and record the relevant authors.

Below we provide a list of occupational health and safety matters that are commonly raised after workplace incidents and should be well documented to assist an organisation in establishing compliance with its obligations under occupational health and safety legislation. Taking these measures will greatly reduce exposure to legal liability in the event of a workplace incident. In addition to establishing compliance, documenting these matters will assist organisations to identify and address any gaps in their systems, thereby reducing the overall risk of a workplace incident occurring.

Seven safety matters that should be well documented

 

  1. Manuals and maintenance records for plant and equipment (even where external service providers are involved).
  2. Safe systems of work (e.g. safe operating procedures).
  3. Risk assessments and hazard identification processes (including details of follow up and implementation of any control measures identified).
  4. Timely and appropriate consideration and resolution of any safety issues raised (e.g. in health and safety committee meetings, during tool box meetings, by employees, etc).
  5. Instruction and training of managers, supervisors, employees and contractors on their personal obligations to take reasonable care of themselves and others.
  6. All induction, training and refresher training provided to managers, supervisors, employees and contractors (including signed statements of understanding verifying that those who receive training have read and understood the training materials and work procedures relevant to their roles).
  7. An emergency response system nominating the person who is to perform each emergency response role following an incident (including who is responsible for incident notification, who is the management representative to liaise with and assist the inspector and who will deal with the media).

Of course, effective management of health and safety requires more than mere documentation of a company’s safety systems. Ultimately, effective implementation of systems will be crucial to eliminating and reducing risks, limiting the occurrence of incidents, achieving compliance with obligations and reducing legal liability.