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In terms of various Regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, every employer must keep records regarding matters concerning his / her employees. I always recommend that all record regarding the employee be placed on the employee’s personal file. Under normal conditions, one would experience trouble with only one employee and not the entire workforce. If one has all the information on the employee in one file, it makes it so much easier if you need to go to court or the CCMA.

What must be placed on the employee’s file? Every file should have at least the following headings:

1. Personal particulars: It is important to have all the particulars on file, such as ID, next of kin, their contact details, where he has kept his will etc. In the event of his death, you, the company, will have to possibly inform his next of kin (could be a vehicle accident in front of the factory), talk to the insurance company etc.

2. Leave records: These must include leave without pay, Awol, and also include what day it was taken on e.g. Monday (M), Friday (F) etc. In this manner it is easy to pick up a pattern, that could (and must) lead to disciplinary steps.

3. General correspondence: This would include letters of appointments, general information such as salary adjustments etc.

4. Training: In terms of the Act and its Regulations training needs to take place on an ongoing basis. The training can be external or internal; it can be formal or informal. What the type might be, it is very important that all training records be placed on his / her file. My recommendation is that each employee has his own training record sheet and whenever training is given, it must be entered onto his record sheet and he must sign for it. If training is done internally (even if it is “informal” on the job) a basic outlay of what has been covered must be available – Training file and each module has a number, and the employee’s record refers to that module number. This might sound complicated, but it is much easier than convincing a court of law that the training was given without any records!

5. Issue of PPE: All Personal Protective Equipment issued to employees must be recorded. I very often come across companies keeping records in a “large black book” for all employees. These records become tatty, pages get lost and to find something ten years ago becomes a major mission. Our recommendation is to have an “issue card” (could be an A4 piece of paper, with pre-printed columns) per person and that person signs on his card every time he received personal protective equipment, including such things as ear plugs.

6. Disciplinary record: Whenever a warning has been issued, it should be entered onto his personal file. “Verbal” warnings must also be entered, how would you know that you have given him ten verbal warnings in the past three months? You should also “counsel” the employee in order to improve his behaviour. The records of the counselling session(s) should be placed on his file under this section.

Many companies have Head Offices, far away from the production facility. My advice to all my “independent” production / technical colleagues is to have a filing system run in tandem with your head office – you are the one that needs to know now in order to take a critical decision – they might not like it, but tough.
It looks like a mountain of work, but believe me it is a thousand times less than if you have to scramble for the information and even worse if you have dismissed the person and you have to re-instate him on a technicality. It is better to have too much information on his file than too little.

Written by Frans Wilbrink of Wilbrink & Associates, tel. 031 – 266 9035