Safety rep toolkit: 6
The role of a safety rep can be challenging and rewarding, depending on your workplace, members, management and the sorts of hazards you collectively face.
You will develop your own approach but may find the following a help.
It will make your job easier in the long run if you:
- develop a relationship with management whereby you can approach them about H&S concerns
- put things in writing when appropriate
- keep and file your own copies of important documents and letters.
Tackling health and safety can be a huge task. Consider:
- how easily the problem can be resolved - if the problem is straightforward and can be sorted out quickly then go ahead and get it out of the way.
- the urgency of the problem - you may have a problem which is so serious that it can’t wait for more detailed information or lengthy negotiations. Urgent serious problems must be a priority. Union help and support is available if needed.
Work with your Prospect team
Section reps, your branch secretary and chair, your Prospect organiser and negotiator (full-time officer) are key to the success of the branch. They liaise within the Union, have access to senior management and represent the members over industrial relations. It is important that you work closely with them to:
- get information and advice
- involve them in situations you can’t resolve alone
- ensure H&S is active in branch business.
Remember, you are a rep: be guided by securing the consensus of the membership in matters for which you represent them.
Work with management
With experience of tackling problems, you'll soon know who the managers with real power are. If there is an H&S officer where you work, for example, you may find they have little power to get things done but can be useful for information and advice.
In most organisations the managers with the power are those holding the purse-strings. Make sure you pitch your representations at the right level and that management representatives on H&S committees have the authority to make decisions.
Understand health & safety committee work
You should have a written constitution setting out the basic rules and procedures of how the health and safety committee will work. This should include its:
- purpose and objectives;
- meeting arrangements; and
- arrangements for reporting the outcome of meetings to employees.
Safety reps share with management responsibility for addressing health and safety proportionately. Over-zealousness jeopardises credibility. The Safety Reps & Safety Committees Regulations empower unions to terminate safety rep appointments. This would be exceptional but a risk to Prospect's reputation would justify consideration.
Be visible and communicate
Safety reps are volunteers with day jobs. However, the role brings responsibilities and expectations that you are active and making a difference. Inspections, investigations and campaigns are all part of getting the job done. Help yourself by developing contacts.
Top tip: the following list will help raise your profile. And help with Prospect recruitment:
- let your colleagues know what you are doing to protect their health and safety
- involve members in identifying issues, finding solutions and dealing with problems - eg hold open meetings, conduct a simple e-survey - you may need management support with the facilities, so ask
- get involved in new worker induction and make the case for TU membership
- run campaigns around local issues
- invite Prospect Members' Service providers along to health and safety events in your workplace
- ensure members kow about Prospect's Personal Injury Scheme
- talk to members and non-members about their health and safety concerns as part of your regular health and safety inspections.
CASE STUDIES: CHARTERS FOR SUCCESS
When EDF took over British Energy, one of the first documents the CEO jointly signed with the Unions was the Safety Rep Charter, demonstrating a strong shared commitment. This is a great way of guaranteeing:
the employer takes H&S and joint problem-solving seriously
employer support of TU H&S reps
consultation taking place only through TU H&S Reps under the 1977 Regulations, preventing the unlawful management appointment of so-called worker 'champions' (non-members with no loyalty to a collective, organised, representative voice).
National Grid and its unions developed a similar agreement in 'Unified in safety'
We are interested in your views and welcome suggestions on how these webpages could be improved or your ideas for new content you would like to see. Please email us at SafetyReps@prospect.org.uk