Safety reps need information to be able to operate effectively. New safety reps particularly may need access to information on hazards and risks, best practice in controlling risk factors, understanding of law and their rights and responsibilities.
This range of PCS fact sheets is designed to cover much of the general information that you will have to know, but you may still need to turn to other sources to fill in gaps.
Employer information about health and safety
Your employer may have agreements with the union on how certain health and safety risks are controlled and managed.
You are entitled to copies of anything that your employer has to hold because of what the law says - such as a copy of their Health and Safety Policy and the Fire Certificate for your workplace (if it has one).
Important health and safety legislation might also be something that your employer holds copies of and which you can access. Alternatively, you may be able to persuade your management that it would be a good idea to start a health and safety library resource in your workplace.
Branch and group reps
Branch and group officers may also have information about agreements and practices within your organisation. They will also be able to advise you on how to get assistance and support from within the group or branch if you need it.
The Health and Safety Executive, or your local authority, is responsible for enforcing health and safety law within your workplace.
Making informal contact with these bodies can be a valuable source of advice and information, particularly if you are facing a specific problem. They may be able to suggest things that you could ask the employer to do.
Hazard centres/trade union resource centres
There are several hazard centres round the country, and trade union resource centres, which offer access to materials and to suggestions of how to tackle difficult situations. Details of local centres can usually be found in telephone directories or on the Internet.
The internet is packed with sites that offer information on health and safety - but always be sure that any information on legislation comes from a UK site!!
Another useful website is the Office of Public Sector Information website, which carries the full text of all UK Acts of Parliament since 1988 and Statutory Instruments since 1987.
Health and Safety Executive
As well as enforcing legislation, the HSE is a key provider of guidance, to employers and others, about what is needed to meet both legal duties and best practice.
The HSE produce a range of guides, including many short guides in leaflets that are available free as a single copy.
the Health and Safety Executive produce a catalogue of publications, many of which are free. The catalogue is also available free of charge.
HSE also operate an Information Line on 08701 545500, available from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
Much of this information in contained on the HSE website but most is also available in written format. Written material can be obtained from HSE Books, at PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 6FS. Tel: 01787 881165
There are several key booklets published by the Health and Safety Executive that will be relevant to most PCS workplaces which reps would be well advised to get copies of:
INDG 36 Working with VDUs
INDG 69 Violence at work - a guide for employers
INDG 73 Working alone in safety
INDG 136 COSHH a brief guide to the regulations
INDG 143 Getting to grips with manual handling
INDG 163 Five steps to risk assessment
INDG 171 Aching arms (or RSI) in small businesses
INDG 223 A short guide to managing asbestos in premises
INDG 225 Preventing slip and trips at work
INDG 236 Maintaining portable electrical equipment in offices
INDG 244 Workplace health, safety and welfare
INDG 281 Work related stress - a short guide
INDG 333 Back in work:
INDG 355 Reduce risks - cut costs
INDG 368 Use of contractors: A joint responsibility