Employers are required to consult with all of their employees regarding health and safety in the workplace. A consultation involves employers giving information to their employees, listening and taking account of feedback from employees before making any health and safety decisions. This consultation allows employees to voice concerns they have about health and safety in the workplace and helps give the management valuable insight into the day-to-day risks employees face. Workplaces with active employee collaboration have lower accident rates and can help employers increase overall commitment to safety.
There are two sets of regulations concerning the duty to consult employees that will apply to the majority of employers. Depending on the circumstances, many employers may only have to consult employees under one of the regulations, however some may have to consult under both. The two charts below show how the two regulations relate to each other and which regulation an employer needs to follow.
|REGULATION:||APPLIES TO:||EMPLOYER DUTY:|
|The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996||– Employees who are not trade union members;
– Employees in trade unions not recognised by the employer and does not have a recognised trade union to represent them; and
– Employees in recognised trade union but do not have representatives appointed or about to be appointed.
|– Employer can choose to consult with employees directly, or
– Employers can consult through employee-elected health and safety representatives
|The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (Northern Ireland 1979)||– Employees in recognised trade unions and have a representative appointed or about to be appointed; and
– Employees in trade unions not recognised by the employer but have a recognised trade union agreeing to represent them, and have an appointed representative or one that is about to be appointed.
|– Employer must consult union-appointed health and safety representatives|
Employers should consult with the employees or representatives on the following:
- The introduction of any measure in the workplace that may substantially affect the health and safety of the employees
- Arrangements for getting a competent person to help comply with health and safety laws
- Information given to employees concerning risks and dangers arising from their work, measures to eliminate or reduce the risks and actions employees should take if exposed to a risk
- Planning and organisation of health and safety training
- Health and safety consequences of introducing new technology
Employers must also give employees or their representatives the information necessary to allow them to fully and effectively participate in the consultation. This includes risks at work, measures and proposals to control the risks and emergency procedures. Much of this information is already available as part of an employer’s health and safety management system.
Functions of Health and Safety Representatives
While union-appointed representatives under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 have more functions than employee-elected representatives under the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996, it is good practice for employers to give safety representatives under the 1996 regulations the option to have equivalent functions to the union-appointed representatives under the 1977 regulations. For instance, it would be good practice to give employee-elected representatives under the 1996 regulations the authority to carry out inspections of the workplace, investigate accidents and attend health and safety meetings.
|The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996||The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (Northern Ireland 1979)|
|Elected by the workforce, where the employer has decided not to consult directly.||
Appointed in writing by a trade union recognised for collective bargaining purposes.
Representatives of employee safety
1. Representation to employers on potential hazards and dangerous occurrence which affect, or could affect represented employees.
2. Representation to employers on general matters affecting the health and safety of employees.
3. Representation to employers on specific matters on which employer must consult.
4. Represent employees in dealings with health and safety inspectors.
|1. Investigate potential hazards, dangerous occurrences and complaints by employees concerning health and safety.
2. Examine causes of workplace accidents.
3. Inspect the workplace.
4. Representation to employer on investigations and general health and safety matters.
5. Represent employees in dealings with health and safety inspectors.
6. Receive certain information from inspectors.
7. Attend health and safety committee meetings.
Training for Health and Safety Representatives
|For Appointed Representatives:||
For Elected Representatives:
|– Employers must give them the paid time necessary to carry out their functions and the paid time necessary to undergo training in those functions, as long as it is reasonable in the circumstances.
– The trade union concerned will offer training to trade union health and safety representatives and usually cover the costs.
– Ensure that they receive the training needed to carry out their roles, as is reasonable in the circumstances.
– Pay any reasonable costs concerning the training, including travel and subsistence costs.
– Give paid time necessary to carry out functions.
– Allow candidates reasonable time with pay to carry out functions as a candidate in an election.
Employers must also provide proper facilities and reasonably assist the representatives to carry out their roles. This includes access to:
- Telephone and quiet area to hold private conversations
- Lockable cabinet or desk to store paperwork, records, etc
- Intra/internet (if available)
- Photocopier and notice board to circulate information to represented employees
- Time with employer to discuss health and safety issues
For more information on consulting your employees, click here.