Safety Representatives

Key Points

  • A recognised trade union may appoint safety representatives. They in turn can establish a formal safety committee.
  • Quite separately, as from 1st October 1996, employees who are not members of trade unions have had a similar right to appoint "representatives of employee safety". The Health & Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 SI 1996/1513 came into force on 1st October 1996.
  • With minor exceptions, "safety representatives" must be chosen from the employees of the employer which recognised the union (H&SatW Act 1974, s.2(4) and reg 3 of the Regulations on Safety Representatives and Safety Committees 1977, SI 1977/500). The exceptions cover Equity ("the British Actors' Equity Association") and the Musician's Union - a safety representative need not be an employee of the employer concerned if he is looking after the interests of members of either of those unions (reg 8 of SI 1977/500).
  • The main function of a safety representative is to investigate potential hazards etc at work, investigate health/safety/welfare complaints made by employees and make appropriate representations to the employer. He is given extensive rights to require the employer to allow him to inspect the workplace and make representations (by regs 3 and 5 of the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977, SI 1977/500).
  • The advantage of consulting with the employees can be that it improves efficiency and productivity. It also leads to greater motivation to comply with H&S requirements, better decisions on H&S and joint problem-solving.
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