Keeping health and safety records

From the minutes of safety committee meetings and details of an accident sustained at work through to compliance documentation, record keeping is an intrinsic part of the management of health and safety. Although record keeping can often be burdensome and complex, the benefits of a good system of record keeping outweigh the disadvantages of not having one.

Why records need to be kept

There are a number of reasons why record keeping is an essential part of good health and safety management.

To maintain legal compliance, a variety of documents are required to be kept, e.g.; accident and incident reports. As a minimum, details of all workplace injuries must be recorded in the Accident Book (Form B1510), as required by the Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1979 and kept for at least three years from the date of an entry.

In the event of more serious accidents and injuries, there are reporting requirements under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013. Accident records can also be called upon as evidence against prosecutions or claims for compensation.

Additionally, requirements extend to the need to keep risk assessments on file under most modern health and safety legislation. The general duty to carry out risk assessments is documented in regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and specific legislations also cite the need for risk assessment, e.g.; the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2012, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Statutory requirements also dictate the length of time records should be kept. One specific example of this is health records and health surveillance records: under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, health surveillance records must be kept for 40 years.

Health and safety record management should form part of an organisation’s everyday activities but is often a job that is neglected. The range of documents to be stored electronically may vary from one organisation to another and is also dependent on level of risk – legal duty is more extensive for high risk industries.

What are the pros and cons of keeping information stored electronically?

Benefits

  • Improved compliance: systems can alert users when documents are due for renewal
  • Improved staff efficiency: cuts out the time wasted in searching for information
  • Better audits: documents can be found and accessed with ease. Record entries can be traced by time, date, named creator or editor
  • Ease of organisation: records can be stored alphabetically, chronologically or by compliance area
  • Ease of retrieval: documents can be located from a number of sites and devices, at any time
  • Trend analysis: some systems give the opportunity to run reports and look at trends.
  • Reduction of hardcopy records: more space saved in buildings and savings in off-site archiving costs.

Drawbacks

  • Price: the implementation and maintenance of a records system can be costly
  • Training: staff must be trained in how to use the system and must also receive refresher training when systems are updated: there are obvious costs attached to this
  • Security: information can be compromised and privacy can be breached, e.g.; if your network is hacked
  • Obsolescence: technological advances can mean that a system may become obsolete quickly
  • Superusers: problems ensue when only one or a small group of individuals know how to retrieve data and this knowledge is lost when they leave an organisation
  • Downtime: the system may be interrupted by downtime of servers or the corruption of IT systems.

Data protection

Record management systems need to meet the requirements set out under the Public Records Act 1958, the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Legislation requires an organisation to store and process records in a particular fashion and there are key obligations placed on an organisation regarding confidentiality, security and data sharing.

With the rise of mobile working and the need for information on the go, more and more people are using smartphones and tablets to access electronic data and in-house records. Such devices present added concerns when it comes to the security of electronic data – they can be lost, misplaced, stolen and hacked into. Data can be protected in a variety of ways to ensure that all formats: desktop or virtual cloud-based systems, an online or data management system or information accessible on hand-held devices can be password protected and files can be encrypted to prevent making them easily accessible, should systems be compromised.

Contact us should you need further information.

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