Discussion meetings - Improving worker involvement - Improving health and safety - consultation document 207
These are the key points raised during our discussion meetings in Manchester and London. Not all delegates agreed on all points and it has not been possible to include all the details raised, here. However, we hope these main themes will be useful for those who were unable to attend and as reminders to those who came along to the meetings.
We would like to thank everyone who gave their time and effort to make the meetings such a success.
Enforcement: A fourth pillar?
- Many delegates argued that there should be a fourth ‘pillar’ to our strategy: enforcement. Some suggested that this could be seen as part of the ‘encouragement’ pillar.
- Trade union representatives in particular saw enforcement of the current regulations as an important step to encouraging consultation.
- Local Authority representatives suggested that with limited resources it was unlikely that enforcement on consultation would be prioritised and so other ways of reaching employers should be exploited.
- The important role of HSE Inspectors and LA enforcement officers in promoting worker involvement and consultation was raised. There was a call for greater consistency among inspectors and EHOs in supporting, consulting and involving reps at site visits.
- Broad support was expressed for the two suggested amendments to the regulations on consultation with employees.
- For involvement in risk assessments it was highlighted that the responsibility must still lie with managers, though representatives should be consulted at all stages. One group suggested standards of competency for doing basic risk assessments would be helpful.
- It was agreed by many that responses to representations were important and that there should be a flexible approach, with an acknowledgement within a short timescale and plan of action to address issues within a specified period after that. It was generally agreed that written responses would be needed.
- Trade union representatives argued for further regulatory amendments, in particular for roving safety reps and provisional improvement notices.
- Many groups talked about a general level of ignorance about the legal duty to consult amongst employers.
- Any legislative change should be launched in a high-profile way with guidance.
- Most groups spoke about the importance of guidance using plain English and being clear and accessible.
- It was suggested that very basic guidance for managers could be helpful – something that highlighted a checklist of minimum requirements.
- Safety representatives did use HSE’s “Brown Book” but many thought it could benefit from updating.
- A number of delegates spoke about the need for practical examples to illustrate good practice.
- One group particularly stressed a need to revise the guidance for reps on how best to approach 'fragmented' employment situations, such as in relation to multi-site employers or where there are large numbers of temporary workers.
- One group, in particular, talked about the usefulness of CDs and promotional materials used in HSE campaigns on specific health and safety issues and suggested these could be a model for guidance on consultation and involvement.
- Some delegates argued that it would be important to make the business case to managers, to increase senior management understanding of the message that good consultation is good business.
- There were mixed views about developing a framework of voluntary standards – some felt this would be a useful mechanism for encouraging better consultation (especially if supported with case study materials and practical advice) others argued strongly that a voluntary approach would not be effective and that legislation supported by enforcement was necessary.
- It is particularly difficult to establish good consultation in multi-site organisations: one group argued that using regional TU structures can be a help when trying to secure improvements to worker involvement and more consistent worker involvement among multiple sites under the control of one employer.
- The importance of training was highlighted in many groups. In particular the need for better H&S training for managers to help them engage with safety representatives, who are well trained.
- The idea of joint training for reps and managers (especially middle managers) was thought to be a good means of promoting a shared understanding of the issues and fostering greater co-operation
“Time off” with pay for representatives to take part in training and fulfil their functions
- A call was made not to refer to this as “time off” because representatives are not on leave during this time. It is time spent doing things other than, but as important to the workplace as, the 'day job.’