Health and safety committees
Consultation and participation, with clearly defined terms of reference, takes place in a health and safety committee.
Where a health and safety committee has been established by local management it must include a balanced representation of management, staff and safety representatives.
Where appropriate, the role and function of the committee may be incorporated and clearly defined in the terms of reference of team meetings.
A safety representative is an employee elected or selected to consult with, and make representations to, the employer on safety, health and welfare matters. The employer must consider these representations, and act on them if necessary.
You will be given reasonable time off for safety training and carrying out safety-related duties.
Role of a safety representative
- make representations for employees
- conduct inspections
- carry out investigations
- accompany HSA inspectors
Information to be made available to safety representatives
You must be given access to information on:
- risk assessments
- reportable accidents
- occupational illnesses
- dangerous occurrences
Examples of such information include:
- safety data sheets
- instruction manuals
- designer, manufacturer or supplier data about items under review
You should also be given information about the systems of work.
This includes any changes that would affect existing risks or precautions, including:
- occupational safety, health and welfare reports
- information on occupational accidents and ill health at the place of work
- results of relevant health assessments carried out
You must also be given copies of compliance with relevant notices.
Employers must supply you with health, safety and welfare information if you request it.
Employers should not supply any information where:
- disclosing the information contravenes a legal prohibition
- information relates to an individual without their consent
- the information could cause significant damage to the organisation
- the organisation's legal position in taking or defending any legal proceedings
You can get 3 types of information from HSA inspectors:
- factual information to do with safety and health in the place of work
- information about any action the inspector has taken or proposes to take
- prohibition notices
Workplace inspections by safety representatives
You can inspect the workplace, after giving reasonable notice to your employer.
You can inspect the workplace immediately where:
- an accident or dangerous occurrence has taken place
- there is an imminent danger or risk to the safety, health and welfare of any person
The frequency of inspections depends on:
- size of workplace
- nature and range of work activities and work locations
- nature and range of hazards and risks
- changing hazards and risks
Some common types of inspections are:
- safety tours that includes a general inspection of the whole workplace
- safety sampling of dangerous activities, processes or work areas
- review of risk assessments, safety statement and safe operating procedures
You may be joined by the employer during inspections.
After the inspection, you can meet in private with those you are representing.
Carry out investigations
Employers must tell you when a HSA inspection is taking place.
A safety representative may investigate accidents and dangerous occurrences in the workplace to find out the causes and help identify necessary remedial or preventive measures.
Investigations may include visual examinations and speaking to people with relevant information. Physical evidence must not be disturbed before an inspector has seen it.
HSA inspections and investigations
As a safety representative, you may:
- be present when the inspector interviews the employee, at the employee's request
- make representations to the employer on safety, health and welfare issues
- make representations to inspectors about the investigation of accidents or dangerous occurrences
- receive advice from inspectors about safety, health and welfare at work
- liaise with other safety representatives appointed, for example, representatives on different shifts
Keeping records will help you when checking to see if measures are implemented. You may keep records of any safety and health issues. This includes those not discovered during an inspection. Notes should be kept of relevant information supplied by the employer.
Electing safety representatives
The number of safety representatives elected depends on the:
- number of employees to be represented
- nature of the work and degree of risk
- operation of shift work
- workplaces spread over many locations
- different types of occupations and locations within the workplace
It is recommended that you serve a term of 3 years, to benefit from the training received. You can be re-elected when your term ends.
Training and support
The National Health and Safety Function provides training for safety representatives. The duration of the training programme is 3 days. Training can be applied for by contacting the health and safety helpdesk.
Managers should train representatives on safe systems of work specific to their workplace.
Safety representative networking sessions are available to :
- build up the knowledge of safety representatives
- provide information on new policies and safety campaigns
To attend a networking session contact the health and safety helpdesk