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40 years of Health & Safety at Work

26 October 2017

This week saw the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations, which established the right of trade unions to appoint health and safety reps. Steve Coe, Organising Director, North, Wales and West, tells us more.

 This week saw the 40th anniversary of the 1977 Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations, which established the right of trade unions to appoint health and safety reps. The Regulations give various legal rights to these reps, and also require employers to set up a Health & Safety Committee and to inform and consult health and safety reps in good time on matters relating to health and safety.

 

These Regulations were enacted following the massive achievement of the trade unions in lobbying for the ground breaking Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, which today forms the cornerstone of modern health and safety legislation.

Everyone has the right to work in a work environment that does not compromise their personal safety and welfare or their mental or physical health. We spend a lot of our lives at work. When we are healthy, happy and safe there, our lives are better overall.

But problems at work can have serious consequences for our mental and physical health. Thousands of people die every year as a result of illnesses contracted as a result of their work. Too many are seriously injured or killed in avoidable accidents at work, including road traffic accidents. Work-related health problems can affect anyone and some are very common, such as headaches, back problems or stress.

The government has published a report this week highlighting the need to tackle mental health. Mental health absence reportedly cost Network Rail over £8 million in the first 6 months of this year, and the government report states that mental health problems are costing UK employers around £42 billion a year. Mental health is an area that clearly must be tackled, and the trade unions and their health and safety reps have an important role to play in this. TSSA has already held a joint conference with RSSB on mental health earlier this year which has kicked off the development of a TSSA strategy for addressing mental health issues.

The evidence shows that workplaces where unions are recognised are safer and healthier workplaces. That is because they effectively challenge employers that fall short in providing healthy and safe working conditions. To do so, unions needs committed health and safety reps in every workplace.

TSSA has too few health and safety reps. Too many of our members' workplaces don't have health and safety reps. There are not enough women coming forward to become health and safety reps. This must change.

If you have an interest in health, safety and welfare, and want to do something about improving the workplace environment, why not become a health and safety rep? TSSA recognises the importance of these vital reps by providing full support, including training, and TSSA health and safety reps have a legal right to paid release to attend this training.

There is a wealth of information about health, safety and welfare available on TSSA's website at: https://www.tssa.org.uk/en/Your-union/health-and-safety/index.cfm

Steve Coe | TSSA Organising Director (North, Wales and West)

 

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