Employers often wonder how long they need to retain health and
safety related documents, such as:
employee training records;
employee course certificates or licenses;
employee wage and time records; and
health and safety meeting minutes.
While there are no hard and fast rules about timeframes, it
would be prudent to retain all health and safety related documents
for a period of at least six years.
It is not so much about the nature of the documents themselves,
but what legal liabilities can arise in the future where the
employer may need to use those documents. The two key liabilities
are around health and safety prosecutions and personal grievances,
and a prudent paper trail can be helpful for an employer in
avoiding or defending any claims.
Health and safety charges must be laid within six months after
the offence comes to the attention of the regulator, WorkSafe NZ,
or ought to have become known to WorkSafe NZ. This time period will
usually run from six months after the date of the accident. In
limited circumstances, this time period can be extended.
Employee training records or course certificates can be relevant
in the context of an accident where an employee's training and
experience is called into question. Similarly, if there is a
question about what practices and procedures employees were
instructed to undertake, training records and minutes of health and
safety meetings where employees were given a reminder instruction
or refresher can be important.
Employee wage and time records can be relevant where there may
be an issue with stress or fatigue. Stress and fatigue are hazards
which must be monitored and managed by employers. An employer must
keep an employee's wage and time records for a period of six
Often there is a need to show that certificates or licenses have
been kept up to date. For example, if there is a forklift accident
and the employee's training history shows that his or her
forklift certificate has been regularly renewed, this will
demonstrate the employee's experience and assist the employer
in showing that training has been kept up to date.
The law does not require that hard-copy documents be kept.
Keeping electronic versions is acceptable, but it is best if it can
be demonstrated that the electronic document is a true copy and has
not been altered – for example, a locked PDF.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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This WHS decision clarified the interpretation of s 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW).
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