Health and safety consultation

The law requires that the University consults with staff and their safety representatives before implementing changes that may substantially affect their health and safety, and regarding risk assessments and protective measures that cover their work activities.

Consultation involves not only giving information to staff, but also listening to them and taking account of what staff say before making any health and safety decisions.

Why consultation is important

Staff need to be involved in health and safety decisions that affect them and the risk assessment process. Their input is valuable in helping to identify health and safety concerns and develop safe workplaces and systems of work that are practical and have their support. It means that adjustments needed to address legitimate concerns can be planned and budgeted for.

Consultation is also a legal requirement under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations and Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations.

How consultation takes place

Most consultation takes place at a local level, with the group of staff that will be affected by the change. For changes that affect a large number of staff or the University as a whole, formal consultation takes place via recognised trade unions.

  • Local consultation: most consultation takes place through including health and safety on the agenda of team meetings. Team meetings can also be used by staff to discuss any concerns they have about health and safety issues affecting them or the team. If you do not have team meetings, check with your manager how consultation and communication on health and safety takes place.
  • University-wide consultation: takes place through the Health and Safety Group or directly with safety representatives from Unison, Unite and UCU. The safety representatives represent all staff on health and safety, not just their members. Where necessary a specific consultation group may be set up to consult stakeholders on the development of specific health and safety standards.

Consultation must take place "in good time". This means before making any decisions involving equipment, processes or work organisation which could affect staff health and safety.

Raising a health and safety concern

Where you have health and safety concerns, you should raise them directly with your manager. Alternatively, you could speak to your Departmental Health and Safety Officer (DHSO) or Health and Safety Liaison Officer (HSLO). Staff also have the right to raise health and safety concerns with a safety representative, who can take the matter up on their behalf.

Safety representatives

Safety representatives are members of staff, appointed by the trade union they belong to, to represent staff on health and safety. They can assist any member of staff who has a health and safety concern (you do not need to be a member of their union).

Find out more about safety representatives and how to contact them. Their contact details can also be found on the Health and Safety Law poster displayed in your workplace.

What must safety representatives be consulted on

By law, safety representatives must be consulted in good time on:

  • the introduction of measures that may substantially affect the health and safety of staff
  • arrangements for getting competent persons to help with complying with health and safety and for assisting with dealing with fire and other emergencies
  • information that must, by law, be provided to staff, including risk assessments and protective measures
  • the planning and organisation of health and safety training
  • the health and safety consequences for staff of new technology that is planned to be introduced into the workplace

Consultation documents

The Health and Safety team welcomes feedback on the policies and standards it produces. You can give us feedback any time and we will consider it when the document is next reviewed.

When developing significant new standards or making substantial changes to existing ones, formal consultation takes place through the Health and Safety Group. Where the policy or standard affects most employees, consultation will be via the DSHO or HSLOs in accordance with the Health and Safety Policy Consultation Procedure. Standards on specific subjects may be targeted to managers of the groups of employees most affected. We will also publish documents undergoing consultation on this site, so that anyone can read and comment on them.

University of Essex documents

For significant consultations, consultation documents will be posted here to enable any member of the University Community to contribute their comments. No consultations at present.

Other organisations

Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA)

No consultations at present.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

If you want to submit comments on an HSE consultation document, you can either do so directly or forward them to the Health and Safety team, who will submit a response on behalf of the University.

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Workplace Health, Safety and Wellbeing
Telephone: 01206 872944