The Radical Evolution of the Health and Safety File and the World Wide Web

Since the introduction of the original Construction Design Management Regulations (CDM) over 20 years ago it is indisputable that the health and safety standards on UK construction sites have improved immensely. A fact supported by the decrease in fatalities and serious injuries in the same period.

When assessing the success of CDM the humble Health and Safety File (HSF) is often overlooked. However when the actual format of today's HSF is compared with a HSF prepared back in the mid- 1990s it is clear that it has developed beyond all recognition.

The evolution of the HSF has matched the growth of the internet. In fact it is hard to believe that the 6th August 2016 was the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web; making it only a few years older than CDM. Those of us who were working in the building industry back in 1991 will have seen how the internet has helped it become more effective and thus more efficient. Whether it is pinging drawings across via e-mail, accessing technical literature in a matter of seconds or utilising Building Information Management (BIM) to design our buildings the internet has made the industry more productive than ever before.

Going back to the HSF and tracking its advancement in the last couple of decades it is without doubt that great efficiencies have been made. If we cast our mind back to the first HSF’s it was clear that there was a lot of confusion over what should actually be included…..despite the answer being in the name! This confusion resulted in businesses producing huge HSF’s running into many volumes which often contained no real mention of health and safety. With the changes to CDM in 2007 and 2015 the accompanying guidance was much clearer and in turn HSF’s became more concise and relevant. 

At Eurosafe UK we have always tried to be one step ahead of the construction safety industry. Looking back we believe that our history of producing HSF’s can certainly evidence this claim. At the time we could see that the HSF was going to greatly assist clients manage their buildings. However we felt that just having a copy of the HSF held in the building did not help multi-site occupiers manage their properties. So we started issuing additional copies of the HSF on floppy disks! At the time this was “cutting edge” but looking back at the number of discs needed to replicate a paper version of the HSF we were very grateful for the introduction of CD-ROM disks that we quickly adopted as a replacement for the floppies.

Despite the storage capacity of CD-ROM’s increasing rapidly we replaced these with memory sticks which were less cumbersome to store and didn’t break if sat upon! 

Eventually the use of the internet became commonplace and we started building mini-websites for our clients. Consequently our HSF’s were securely hosted on-line and could be accessed via individual passwords for all invited parties. This was a real game-changer as now clients and their design teams could access key information to use when planning future works. Additionally contractors could also view information relating to asbestos when planning their work. Furthermore, thanks to an audit log, clients could see which contractors actually visited the online information prior to visiting site.

But the evolution didn’t stop there. We now have developed our web offer further to include a facility where a HSF can be uploaded into compliance sections which then report back to a client advising them of when the next due date for the testing of the gas boiler is due for example. This popular feature is in effect a “talking” HSF which results in a client never missing a date when a compliance item is due a test/inspection.

Eurosafe UK are continuing to produce HSF’s for many clients, but over the last 12 months or so we have been inundated with requests from Principal Designers asking for assistance with producing HSF’s. This has been great success with numerous architects and interior designers utilising our experienced team to produce their HSF’s branded up on their behalf.