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4: getting trained

Safety rep toolkit: 4
Getting trained

We define the competencies of an effective health and safety reps, the training options available and Prospect's expectations of employers and reps.

hard hat and clipboardSafety rep competencies

The following are competencies Prospect recommends you develop and/or maintain (ie through refresher training or regular workplace use):

  • hazard identification & risk assessment: to spot and measure danger, and to be able to evaluate the adequacy of your employer’s risk assessments
  • legal knowledge: a grounding in key health and safety law and associated standards
  • communication skills: to cascade employer consultations, encourage staff feedback, make unambiguous representations to your employer and be influential
  • organisational skills: so you can prioritise, handle committee work and manage your time - remember your entitlements to time off
  • negotiation skills: to identify barriers and how to overcome them, to make and defend union objectives assertively, minimising the likelihood of conflict
  • IT skills: to develop intranet communities, professional briefings/newsletters, conduct on-line surveys etc
  • handling personal cases: for experienced reps.

Training needs

Ideally you will have union H&S rep training as soon as possible after you take up appointment. Even if you have NEBOSH, IOSH or other similar H&S qualifications, it is still beneficial for you to have trade union training to familiarise yourself with your role and responsibilities as one of Prospect’s H&S reps. It also enables you to network with like-minded colleagues. 

Some employers offer H&S reps in-house, employer-organised worker involvement training tailored to the organisation's structures and processes. This can be a bonus for reps, often being convenient and helpful in building relationships with H&S and OH practitioners.

Limited H&S training is provided by Prospect however UnionLearn offers a comprehensive range of college courses and e-learning packages.

Prospect courses

Prospect organisation and education department run an education programme and applications can be made on-line.  Prospect recommends the following for H&S reps:

Essential skills for union volunteers - new volunteers unfamiliar with the workings of a union and who's who in Prospect are advised to make this their starting point. New H&S Reps who are familiar  may prefer to go straight to:

Introduction to health and safety  -  Prospect offers an accredited stages 1 & 2 combined course comprising pre-course preparation, face-to-face learning (2 days over 3) and post-course consolidation. This is to provide maximum impact training with minimum impact on your time away from work in a package designed to be attractive to our H&S reps and their employers.

Presentation skills - a 2 day course to help build you speak with confidence in meetings, seminars and other events.

Negotiating with employers and advance negotiating skills - 2 day courses recommended for H&S reps to improve the capacity to negotiate for H&S success.

Branch training - consideration will be given to Full-Time Officer-endorsed requests for branch training. For instance, a 2-day Branch-specific H&S Rep course or a 1-day stress & mental health course. Such training is typically arranged in association with the employer. Branches wishing to pursue this should contact their negotiator (FTO) who will liaise with Learning Services.  

TUC courses

TUC Education is provided by UnionLearn, which offers a comprehensive programme of college and on-line training.

This starts with 'H&S stage 1' and 'Next Steps stage 2', through a range of specialist courses such as on COSHH, Cancer, Stress and Incident Investigations, through to the Occupational H&S Diploma.

Stages 1 & 2, the Diploma and the Cancer in the workplace course are all available on-line as e-learning packages.

Prospect expects employer support: 

  • courses should be union-approved
  • if employers run courses for safety reps, they should be in addition to, not instead of, union courses. Safety reps may exercise their legal rights to be consulted about such courses
  • safety reps need cover during their training so that their ordinary workload does not become excessive or deter them from attending training.
  • no one should suffer financial detriment as a result of attending training
  • safety reps undertaking ‘online’ courses are entitled to time off with pay in the same way as those attending college courses.

Prospect expects safety rep:

  • Commitment
    • a personal interest in workplace health, safety and wellbeing
    • a willingness to build competence through experience, learning and development
    • a willingness to seek constructive relationships with members & management.
  • Integrity
    • members must be able to trust you and that your actions will never leave them exposed.
  • Responsibility and discretion
    • appreciating that your rights are powerful and should be used responsibly.
  • Visibility
    • being proactive, promoting health and safety, keeping constituents abreast with news and developments, running initiatives and campaigns
    • being approachable - by telephone, mobile, e-mail and/or in person – let members know how best they can contact you.


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