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Discussion - Employee consultation and involvement in health and safety

Discussion ended 17 March 2000


This document seeks to promote public debate on arrangements for employee consultation and greater involvement in workplace health and safety and:

A key programme in our Strategic Plan aims to secure more effective employee participation in health and safety. The Government is also keen to promote employee involvement and has asked us to review how workers are currently consulted and explore ways to enhance the role of safety representatives. We welcome this opportunity.

The active participation of workers in improving health and safety is not new. In the mining industry, for example, there have been legal provisions for workers to inspect their workplaces since 1872. In the early 1970s, the Robens Report, which led to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the UK system of self-regulation, recognised that employee involvement in the promotion of health and safety at work was crucial to the success of self-regulation. The report led to the system of safety representatives appointed by trade unions which has been the cornerstone of health and safety consultation for the past twenty five years.

We share the belief expressed in the Robens report that employee involvement is crucial to securing higher standards of health and safety at work. The report was prepared in the 1970s, however, before restructuring and changes in patterns of working. At that time too trade union recognition and membership was much higher than now. Our review, considers these changes in examining ways to promote wider involvement of employees. Any changes to current arrangements will need wide support and commitment from stakeholders. We believe that partnership is the best way to maximise the health and safety benefits which worker consultation can bring. We want to explore the ideas that have already been suggested and to gather more ideas to stimulate a wider debate about how to improve consultation and worker involvement.

A Review is timely in the light of:

Our Review will be wide-ranging, exploring possible changes to the law on consultation with employees and other options for promoting wider employee involvement. This document has been prepared with the assistance of other stakeholders. Our discussions with them and emerging evidence lead us to believe that more needs to be done.

We will consider our options in the light of the outcome of the Review and make recommendations to Ministers. If it is agreed that new regulations are required we will first carry out a separate consultation exercise on specific proposals.

If you have ideas for promoting greater worker involvement we would like to hear about them. The questionnaire at Appendix 3 is for your comments. It will help us analyse the results of this exercise if you could use it.

Updated 2009-05-28