Reps make a difference
Union health and safety reps make a massive difference in the workplace – a government report published in 2007 estimated that the activities of union health and safety reps prevented between 8,000 and 13,000 accidents and between 3,000 and 8,000 fewer work-related illnesses, saving society somewhere in the range of £250 million to £800 million at 2021 prices.
The very important role that our health and safety reps play in representing our members and keeping them safe at work is therefore valued highly by TSSA.
TSSA is committed to ensuring that our reps, including our health and safety reps, have the skills and confidence they need to do carry out their role, and hopefully to enjoy it!
To this end, our union requires health and safety reps to undertake comprehensive professional training made available to them. Reps should continuously develop their skills and knowledge whilst in the role.
TSSA will provide ongoing support, information and advice. The health and safety pages on this website provide comprehensive information and materials, including the health and safety reps’ toolkit. There are also links to other useful websites.
What H&S reps do
What does TSSA expect from its health and safety reps?
TSSA health and safety reps are expected to be committed to advancing the interests of TSSA and its members, and be committed to the union’s policies and values. They are encouraged to be actively involved in TSSA’s democracy, the union’s lay structures (especially Branches) and TSSA activities outside of the workplace such as TSSA events and demonstrations.
TSSA health and safety reps need to be clear about which staff and which workplaces are covered by them. They need to have a copy of the agreement between TSSA and their employer which sets out in detail their role in the context of their employer. And they need to know and understand their employer’s health and safety policies, and how health and safety is managed by the employer. Other TSSA reps and TSSA paid staff can help with this.
Building TSSA’s strength and influence in the workplace
TSSA health and safety reps are expected to grow our union’s membership by identifying potential members and recruiting them into membership. Your employer will take much more notice of you if you represent the vast majority of the staff!
Working together and collective decision making
TSSA health and safety reps are expected to be committed to a collective decision making process working as part of a team with other TSSA reps, along with TSSA paid staff. They should share information, especially information that would be useful to others.
It is vital that local health and safety reps report on any local issues that may have a wider importance to company level health and safety reps, and TSSA paid staff.
They should actively inform TSSA’s collectively determined decisions, and participate in the decision making process. They should abide by those decisions, and advocate and promote them to members and other reps.
TSSA health and safety reps should also work closely with health and safety reps from other unions, whilst maintaining their independence to pursue the matters that they and TSSA members see as important.
Dealing with the employer
TSSA health and safety reps should meet regularly with management to discuss issues that are of concern to TSSA members. They should ensure that they are formally consulted by management about any changes in their workplace that may have an impact on health and wellbeing, welfare or safety, including any new or revised risk assessments. And they should follow up to ensure that management acts on undertakings given to them.
They should escalate to the next level any matters upon which agreement cannot be reached with management.
Union health and safety reps have the right to inspect all the workplaces covered by them (this is usually defined in the agreement between TSSA and the employer). Health and safety reps are legally entitled to inspect at least every three months, and more frequently if deemed necessary.
Whilst it is good practice for the relevant manager to accompany the health and safety rep, the rep may carry out the inspection alone.
It is the health and safety rep’s inspection, not management’s inspection, and it is up to the rep to decide what should be recorded and reported. Employers may have their own inspection forms, but reps may use any form they wish – TSSA inspection forms are available.
Health and safety reps should use the inspection to talk to members about their issues and concerns as they tour the workplace, and also to identify possible recruits to TSSA.