It's Official - Health and Safety Reps Rock
Here in the UK there’s a vast network of more than a hundred thousand trade union health and safety reps who assist in reducing the number of injuries and incidents of ill health in the workplace. According to a new TUC report, not only does this save lives, but it also saves the British economy millions of pounds! The report is called “The Union Effect” and was published during the TUC’s Heartunions week in order to demonstrate the positive contribution unions make to both workplaces and communities.
“The Union Effect” describes a trade union as “the most effective tool that we have in ensuring good health and safety at work” and goes on to say that organised workplaces are safer workplaces. The report lists some of the benefits that health and safety reps deliver:
- The help to reduce injuries in the workplace and ill-health caused by the job. Apparently, workplaces which have a union presence have a 24% lower rate of injuries than non-unionised workplaces.
- They promote the importance of reporting injuries and awareness of risks. Workplaces with a health and safety committee are more than twice as likely to provide health and safety training for workers than a workplace without one.
- They play an important role in developing a positive safety culture in organisations. IN workplaces where there is a health and safety rep, staff feel that they have a voice and are more willing to raise issues – unions also help to make their members more aware of safety issues in the workplace.
- They help to save the British economy millions of pounds – according to some estimations, safety reps save society more than £180 million by decreasing the time lost due to injuries in the workplace and save more than 286,000 days that would otherwise have been lost to work-related illnesses.
The TUC itself trains 10,000 safety reps every year while many others receive training via their own unions. The training enables the reps to spot hazards in the workplace and deal with any concerns from individuals working there. Thanks to union reps, risks such as asbestos exposure, repetitive strain injury (RSI), stress, violence at work and the effects of passive smoking are all now issues that are taken seriously. The UK Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) 2009 strategy stated “There is strong evidence that unionised workplaces and those with health and safety representatives are safer and healthier as a result”.
Safety reps often know the workplace far better than management do and are usually more aware of what’s happening on the shop floor/site. They also provide a safe and diverse channel for reporting events and hazards and most workers feel more comfortable raising concerns with a safety rep than they do raising concerns directly with supervisors or management. In workplaces where staff have a safety representative or safety committee, workers feel that they have a voice which makes them more willing to raise issues.