The functions of trade union safety reps are laid down by the 1977 Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (SRSC Regs.).
Provided a trade union safety rep has been properly appointed (see PCS Health and Safety Organisation), the functions are:
- investigating potential hazards and dangerous occurrences
- investigating complaints by members
- investigating the causes of accidents
- inspecting the workplace
- inspecting documents relevant to safety in the workplace
- making representations to the employer
- representing members' interests in meetings with enforcement inspectors
- receiving information from the employer
- receiving information from enforcement inspectors
- being consulted by the employer about issues relating to health and safety in the workplace
- attending meetings of safety committees.
The SRSC Regs also give important rights to safety reps:
- to be provided with facilities and assistance by the employer, to carry out their functions
- to be allowed 'such time off with pay as shall be necessary' to perform their functions
- to be allowed 'such time off with pay as shall be necessary' to undergo 'reasonable' training
- to require an employer to establish a safety committee (this requires two safety reps!)
- to complain to an Employment Tribunal if time off is not granted or paid.
In addition, the regulations state that no legal duties are placed on safety reps, because of their functions and rights.
This means that a safety rep has no greater liability in law for health and safety breaches than any other employee.
As well as their legal rights and functions, safety reps can play an important role in alerting their members to the importance of health and safety at work.