Your Work and Your Health
As a health & safety representative ...
The Role of Health and Safety Representatives
Who are Health & Safety Representatives?A health and safety representative could an employee or a member of a union, who represents the employees with regard to their health and safety at work. He/she can have a very positive impact on levels of safety and health in the workplace. A study by the Health and Safety Executive has shown that union trained safety representatives working within a joint union-management safety committee have a significant influence over reducing major injury rates. Whilst this does not discount a role for non union based safety representatives the support and training that is generally provided by the Unions helps these individuals carry out their role more effectively.
The role of the health and safety representative is independent from management to ensure that the health of employees is protected and to check that managers are following Health and Safety Regulations in providing a safe work environment. This is best achieved by a partnership in which the interests of the employer and employee are mutual and contribute towards continued success of the enterprise, continuing employment, and a safe and healthy working environment. The roles and responsibilities of the health and safety representative have been laid down in the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 and the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985. Under these Acts, employers, manufacturers and suppliers, all have duties in relation to health and safety in the workplace.
Under this legislation the Trade Unions also have the right to appoint
workplace safety representatives. Employees also have the right to negotiate
with the employer to establish 'designated work groups' and to elect Occupational
Health and Safety Representatives. Unions provide help and advise to their
members about how they should go about these activities.
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Health and safety representatives have the following roles/ rights:
Can health & safety representatives provide help to non-union
Under the Approved Code of Practice to the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (sometime referred to as the 'the brown book') the employer has a duty to permit safety representatives such time off with pay (during working hours) as shall be necessary for them to undergo training in those aspects that are required for them to perform this duty. The duration of the training required cannot be rigidly prescribed but basic training should take into account the responsibility placed upon safety representatives under the Regulations.
The Health and Safety Executive has reported that trained representatives
were more likely to improve safe working practise by forming safety committees,
undertaking safety audits, and recruiting other employees as safety representatives
as well as organising training events. The HSE study concluded "that
training is perceived by safety representatives to be of considerable
benefit in supporting all of their key functions". These include
Unions provide safety representatives with information, training, and
support over a wide range of health and safety issues. They are trained
to spot hazards at work, assess risks, carry out inspections and negotiate
improvements with management. Their back-up includes specialist advice
from union safety experts, and access to legal advice if needed. In the
UK there are over 320,000 trade union safety representatives that have
been trained by Trade Unions Congress under their Educational programme.
Each year ~10,000 new people receive this training. In their report on
Safety Representatives HSE reported several factors that make the training
provided by the Unions particularly effective. These included the value
of sharing workplace experiences with others; knowing about the legal
rights and standards; knowing how to access information and knowing how
to tackle problems in the workplace. These activities benefits everyone
in the company both those in union as well as those who are not members
Trades Union Congress Education at Work Scheme: The TUC Education
at Work scheme provides training for up to 10,000 safety representatives
every year. Around 700 of these individuals received training up to Certificate
level, with around 4,000 attending the Stage 1 safety representative training
course (health and safety) and the remainder competing stage 2 (advanced
health and safety) as well as other short course or certificate training.
Up to one third of the trainees are women. In future the training of these
individuals will be supported through the TUC website (www.tuc.org.uk/learning/edservice_courses.cfm).
TUC regional education officers:
HSE Information line telephone number: 0870 1545500
Hazard Centres & Trade Union Resource Centres: There are several Hazard Centres round the country, as well as TU resource centres . These offer you access to materials and can provide you with ideas about how you can develop your role and also tackle difficult problems. You can find your local centres by following the link below. TUC's "know your right" line 0870 6004882.
HSE Workers Safety Adviser (WSA) pilot: The Health and Safety
Adviser Network is a bridge from the present position of poor workplace
consultation towards an inclusive approach to workplace consultation on
health and safety matters. The model for the network is the HSE Workers
Safety Adviser pilot scheme.
Click below for a copy of the report:
UCATT decided to launch a national network of health and safety advisers
who will be based in UCATT regional offices and will work to improve health
and safety in the construction sector. Their role will be to:
The positive findings from the pilot has led to a further 3 years of
government funding. A Challenge Fund has been set up to ensure that the
HSA Network will continue to complement future HSE projects in this area.
The WSA pilot has provided a clear benchmark for the HSA Network, which
should help to allay some employer concerns about the purpose of the initiative.
The desired outcome is that Health and Safety Advisers can become a 'catalyst
for change' in the workplace.
Contact the HSA Network
For the Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire Region
During an inspection the health and safety representatives may see that something is wrong in the workplace such as the use of a hazardous material or an activity that increases the risk of an accident. It is not easy to spot the effects of hazardous substances on the health of employees, and personal and social barriers often prevent employees being open about their ill health. As a consequence they may dismiss their pains and symptoms as unrelated to their work. Body mapping can help the health and safety representative overcome these problems by identifying common patterns of health problem amongst employees when they are doing the same job within the same workplace. For more details about body mapping follow the link below
www.pcs.org.uk/ - Body Mapping - A Safety Representative's guide
Accident and Incident Reporting:
A key element of an effective management of workplace health and safety
requires a system that records and reports incidents and 'near misses'.
Not only should there be a formal reporting system but also systems should
be in place to respond actively to the problems raised by such incidents.
Proper assessment followed by implementation of an action plan is the
best way to reduce the incidence of accidents and a very effective way
to continually improve safe working practise. It is a requirement on employers
that they record and report accidents as well as ill health caused by
work. Safety representatives have a key role in implementing these reporting
schemes and ensuring that incidents are properly reported in workplaces.
They act as a safeguard in the situation where employers or managers do
not act responsibly.
Independent surveys have reported that the accident rate in workplaces
with trained safety representatives who are consulted properly by management
can reduce the reported incidence of accidents by 50% compared to workplaces
that have no safety representatives. The safety representative has the
legal right to inspect the workplace (at least every 3 months) and they
should also be informed when any accidents or illness occurs in the workplace.
These incidents should be recorded in an Accident Book and details of
the background and factors that contributed to the incident should also
be recorded. This is the basis by which incidents can be properly investigated
and lessons learnt to inform improvements in working practise.
What is the best practise to work with employers?
The best circumstances are those where health and safety representatives can work in partnership with the employer. By working together for a safer working environment the health of employees can be protected and potential business costs can be reduced. Occupational illness may result in litigation which a small business can ill afford. The health and safety representative can focus on activities to reduce the incidence of accidents and illness. It is the employers responsibility to take all necessary actions to prevent accidents and ill health in the workplace and to record and report incidents. However, the health and safety representative can identify problems at an early stage thus reducing the risk of a serious incident. Improving safe working practise can also bring innovation to working practise and reduce costs of materials and labour.
It is to everyone's benefit that a health and safety representative keeps
their skills up to date. The Approved Code Of Practise says further training
'should be undertaken where the safety representative has special responsibilities
or where such training is necessary to meet changes in circumstances or
relevant legislation'. Employers must establish a joint safety committee
and are required to do so when requested by two or more union health and
safety representatives. The employers must enable health and safety representatives
to gain access to all the information they need to fulfil their responsibilities
and functions. The employers must also provide help with facilities that
are reasonably required by the health and safety representative to carry
out their responsibilities. For example, suitable space and office equipment
to record and store records. Time away to attend training courses is also
a basic requirement. Safety representatives are protected from victimisation
for any acts or omissions in their execution of their duties - the law
provides safety representatives with rights and not duties. The Public
Interest Disclosure Act 1998 also gives "whistleblower" protection
in a range of circumstances, including those where the health and safety
of employees is put at risk.
www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hse27.pdf [60KB PDF]
This site is supported by the Healthy Work Matters Group