How often are you asked to change your RAMS documents to suit a main contractor’s format?

by Dann Albright on May 26, 2015

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Sub-contracting is a common practice in the UK—it often makes a lot of sense to hire out some of the work that you either can’t do or can’t do as efficiently as someone else. But sub-contracting can pose a significant hurdle when it comes to formatting health and safety documentation into all the varying main contractors formats, costing business owners and H&S managers a lot of time and money.

A question of standardisation

Main contractors can receive hundreds of RAMS documents for a big project, and they all need to be reviewed, and issued with an ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ status. Because the health and safety officers of these companies want to make this process as efficient as possible, they often require that sub-contractors use a specific format for their RAMS documents, making it easier to review the huge number of documents submitted.

However, this requirement has proved a huge time suck for sub-contractors, especially those who work with a large number of main contractors. Because each contractor requires RAMS to be submitted in different formats, the amount of time spent on raising documents is significantly increased. The time and effort required to deal with health and safety documents is just pushed down the supply chain.

The different formats and templates can also have an adverse effecting on sub-contractors maintaining a safe workplace. The point of a RAMS document is for workers to be able to quickly and easily consult their risk assessments, but this is made infinitely more difficult when the workers have to learn to read the same information in a number of different formats.


This all leads to a bureaucratic form filling process, with each RAMS taking hours to complete, edited in a particular format, and ends up being a copy and paste exercise with little interest or time spent addressing the specific risks onsite. While site supervisors should be the ones creating or updating their RAMS, the formatting issue can make these documents so complicated that they often don’t have time, and the responsibility is often passed onto back office staff who aren’t always aware of the hazards developing onsite.

When RAMS documents are hastily put together using old information in order to save time on formatting, site risks can go unacknowledged and workers can be put in harm’s way – this system isn’t contributing to better health and safety of workers.

At the same time, expecting main contractors to review a huge amount of documentation in different formats is unrealistic. These contractors are already spending a huge amount of time and money on this process, and allowing sub-contractors to use their own RAMS formats would multiply the resources required.

It certainly makes sense for these documents to be standardised, but with little leadership in the industry and desire to make this happen from a government level, it seems like we could be stuck with this broken system for some time.

How do you deal with RAMS documentation?

We want to hear from you, whether you’re a main contractor, a sub-contractor, a site operative, or you hold any other position that’s related to health and safety in the contracting world. Have you experienced this pain, and how are you currently dealing with this problem?

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