Independent research has shown that the presence and proper use of safety representatives within a workplace can cut the accident rate by up to 50%.
But, to have this effect, we first need to ensure that sufficient members are prepared to act as union Health and Safety Representatives. This page outlines the jobs reps need to do, the training and support available and their legal rights.
Legal rights and duties of safety reps
Since 1977, trade unions that are recognised for collective bargaining purposes have had the legal right to appoint health and safety reps.
The law leaves it to unions, in consultation with the employer, to decide how many reps are needed for any workplace – but once a rep has been appointed, the laws give them significant rights:
- Represent employees in discussions with the employer on health, safety or welfare issues and in discussions with HSE or other enforcing authorities.
- Investigate hazards and dangerous occurrences.
- Investigate complaints.
- Carry out inspections of the workplace and inspect relevant documents.
- Attend safety committees.
- Be paid for time spent on carrying out their functions and to undergo training.
A safety representative has no legal duties, other than those of an employee.
Employers’ legal duties towards safety representatives include:
- Consulting the safety representative on arrangements for co-operating on health and safety measures.
- Permitting time for the safety representative to carry out their functions, and to undergo training.
- Making necessary information available.
- Providing facilities and assistance.
- Setting up a safety committee if requested by two or more safety representatives.
Support for safety reps
PCS provides a full range of support for union health and safety reps.
As well as each bargaining group having their own liaison arrangements, centrally we produce written documentation and ensure full access to training courses for safety reps.
PCS supports attendance at TUC health and safety courses, but also runs its own introductory courses, through our Regional Centres.
PCS has a central database of safety reps, each of whom is issued with an accreditation card and a letter for local management, showing that the individual is a properly appointed PCS rep.
General advice and support is also available from the Equality, Health and Safety Department at PCS HQ.
So, why not become a safety rep?
If you are interested contact the branch and we will authorise your appointment as a PCS health and safety rep for your workplace
If you have any comments on the contents of this note please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Branch assistant secretary