Health and Safety Committees
Employers have a duty to consult with their employees, or their representatives, on health and safety matters. This consultation process can be facilitated through establishing a health and safety committee.
Local health and safety committees provide a forum for employee participation and consultation on the steps taken to safeguard their safety, health and welfare within the workplace.
Where a health and safety committee has been established by local management, it must include balanced representation of management, staff and safety representatives with clearly defined terms of reference.
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 to carry out safety-related duties as per your role and in agreement with your line manager.
A safety representative's role is to:
- make representations on behalf of employees
- conduct inspections
- carry out investigations
- accompany Health and Safety Authority (HSA) inspectors
Information to be made available to safety representatives
As a safety representative, 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 HSA 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
As a safety representative, you can inspect the workplace in agreement with your line manager.
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 (refer to the safety representative inspection checklist to assist you in completing a general inspection)
- 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.
Health and Safety 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 employees with relevant information. Physical evidence must not be disturbed before inspection by the HSA, as appropriate.
HSA inspections and investigations
During a HSA inspection or investigation as safety representative you may:
- be present when the inspector interviews the employee, at the employee's request
- 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
Safety representatives may maintain records of any safety and health matter found to be unsatisfactory, whether discovered during an inspection or not. A note 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.
Training is available to HSE employees following a training needs assessment (TNA) and is requested through the NHSF helpdesk.
Safety representative training is an online programme delivered over 3 days.
Safety representatives should be trained on local safety procedures relevant to their work.
Safety representatives networking sessions in 2023
The National Health & Safety Function (NHSF) host regular networking sessions for safety representatives across the HSE. These are 1 hour online sessions providing advice, safety updates and networking opportunities with your counterparts in other locations.
To book your place, click on the session you wish to attend.
Topic: Your role as safety representative in the HSE
Date and time: Tuesday 24 October 2023, 10.30am-11.30am
Topic: Your role as safety representative in the HSE
Date and time: Thursday 30 November 2023, 2.30pm-3.30pm