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Health and Safety

Every year more than 20,000 people die because of their work. Most don't die of mystery ailments, or in tragic "accidents". They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn't that important a priority. Workers’ Memorial Day (WMD) commemorates those workers.

Workers' Memorial Day is held on28 April every year, all over the world workers and their representatives conduct events, demonstrations, vigils and a whole host of other activities to mark the day.

The day is also intended to serve as a rallying cry to “remember the dead, but fight for the living”.

Why are health and safety reps important?

UNISON members believe health and safety is the most important issue at work. Health and safety can be a matter of life and death.

Many of UNISON members know what it’s like to experience stress, violence or accidents and injuries at work.

Tackling health and safety is also a very good way of organising in the workplace.

What do health and safety reps do?

Everyone who works has basic rights, which include things like sufficient space to work in, clean and well-lit workplaces and safe working practices.

Health and safety reps work to make the workplace as safe as possible. They can:

  • Make representations to the employer on behalf of members on any health, safety and welfare matter
  • Represent members in consultation with Health and Safety Executive inspectors or other enforcing authorities
  • Inspect designated workplace areas at least every three months
  • Investigate any potential hazards, complaints by members and causes of accidents, dangerous occurrences and diseases

Employers are obliged by law to carry out risk assessments which identify dangers in the workplace and look at how likely they are to cause harm. Health and safety reps can help make sure this happens.

What rights do health and safety reps have?

Health and safety reps have important legal rights, including the right to:

  • Paid time off to carry out the role and undergo either TUC or union-approved training
  • Raise issues with the employer that affect the health and safety of members
  • Facilities and support from the employer to carry out inspections
  • To receive legal and technical information from the employer

How do I become a health and safety rep?

Like stewards, safety reps are chosen by union members. They are not appointed by the employer.

Your UNISON branch will decide on the arrangements. Once a safety rep is appointed, the employer must be notified in writing of that appointment.

Where do I go for advice and support?

Your branch is always the first place to go. Most branches will make sure that health and safety reps have details of local union officers who will give prompt advice and guidance. Guidance is also available via your branch secretary.

Do I get any training?

UNISON provides special introductory and follow up courses for health and safety reps. Contact your branch to find out when and where the next training course will be held.

Where can I find useful information and resources?

How many health and safety reps are needed?

UNISON aims to have at least one health and safety rep in every workplace where we have members. In some cases the safety rep and steward are the same person but they have two separate roles.

How can I get more involved in UNISON health and safety

Contact Jim Dillon or William Wilson if you are interested in becoming a workplace health and safety rep.