Safety representatives carry out workplace inspections, investigate staff complaints, potential hazards and dangerous occurrences, as well as examining the cause of accidents. They represent staff in consultations on matters which may affect their health and safety. These are only functions of the safety representatives, not responsibilities.
Managers cannot direct employees to carry out health and safety tasks in their role as union-appointed safety representative.
Safety representatives attend the Health and Safety Committee and Safety Advisory Group. They may also be asked to comment on new documents or attend meetings dealing with specific issues that have a health and safety impact on staff. Heads of department and managers need to ensure that they consult the safety representatives when planning changes that may affect the health and safety of staff under their control.
Safety representatives also represent staff in meetings with the enforcing body. If an HSE inspector arranges to visit the workplace, the safety representative should be informed and given the opportunity to meet the inspector.
Safety representatives may wish to investigate complaints made by a member of staff and should be allowed time and facilities to do this. A management representative can accompany the representative during investigations. They are entitled to investigate RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) reportable incidents, provided it is safe for them to do so. The University would also support their investigation of any safety incident.
WHSW provides safety representatives with anonymous information on accidents that take place at the University. They can request further details about the incident, however, the permission of the injured person must be sought before their details are disclosed.
Safety representatives should normally provide notice to the appropriate manager in writing of any concerns they have about health and safety following their investigations.
Safety representatives are entitled to inspect workplaces provided they have given reasonable notice, in writing, of their intention to do so. They can also carry out an inspection following an accident or dangerous occurrence.
The Code of Practice on Managing Health and Safety requires that Heads of Department ensure that annual formal health and safety inspections are carried out for their area. There is benefit in joint management/union inspections and so a safety representative should be invited to join the inspection team. Heads of department should advise the safety representatives of the three trade unions at least two weeks before the proposed inspection date, so that the appropriate safety representative is there. Following the inspection a copy of the report must be sent to the safety representative.
Safety Representative rights
Paid time off
Safety representatives are entitled to reasonable paid time off to carry out their functions and undergo training.
Representatives are also entitled to appropriate facilities to perform their function, including a telephone in a private area, suitable storage space, access to the internet, email, photocopiers and notice boards. They are also entitled to access to senior managers to discuss health and safety issues.
Access to information
Representatives have the right to inspect and take copies of documents (such as risk assessments, inspection reports, training and accident records) relating to the health and safety of the workplace or the employees they represent, provided:
- they have the consent of the affected individuals to disclose personal information
- disclosure does not affect security, business confidentiality or legal proceedings
If you need to contact a safety representative and are not sure which one it is best to approach, you can email them all, and they will agree which one of them would be best placed to deal with the issue.