Worker consultation and involvement
The legal requirements for consultation and involvement of the workforce include:
- providing information
- engaging in consultation with employees, and especially trade unions where they are recognised
Beyond the required legal minimum standard, worker involvement is the full participation of the workforce in the management of health and safety.
At its most effective, full involvement creates a culture where relationships between employers and employees are based on collaboration, trust and joint problem solving. Employees are involved in assessing workplace risks and the development and review of workplace health and safety policies in partnership with the employer.
‘I find it hard to imagine how one could ever put in place an effective workplace health and safety system that did not include real participation and engagement of the workforce.’
Judith Hackitt, HSE Chair
What are you doing?
- How are employees or their representatives consulted and involved in health and safety matters?
- How effective are those mechanisms in relation to the organisation’s size and structure, or the rate of workplace change?
- Are the needs of any vulnerable workers (temporary or agency staff, or those whose first language is not English) appropriately met, including through, for example, the use of interpreters, use of symbols and diagrams rather than written instructions?
- Are employees consulted in good time?
- Do health and safety representatives have sufficient time and access to the facilities they need to carry out their functions?
- Do contractors have an appropriate level of induction and training?
Worker consultation and involvement - what to look for
Use the following examples of effective and ineffective health and safety management to check if you are doing what you need to do on worker consultation and involvement.
|What it looks like when done effectively
||What it looks like when done badly or not at all
- Instruction, information and training are provided to enable employees to work in a safe and healthy manner.
- Safety representatives and representatives of employee safety carry out their full range of functions.
- The workforce are consulted (either directly or through their representatives) in good time on issues relating to their health and safety and the results of risk assessments.
- Feedback mechanisms exist for health and safety matters, such as:
- ‘suggestions boxes’ or more formal open meetings with management;
- team meetings are held and may be led by employees.
- Joint decisions on health and safety are made between managers and workers.
- Employees lack the right level of information, instruction and training needed to do their job in a safe and healthy manner.
- Representatives cannot carry out their functions.
- Employees don’t know who they would go to if they had health and safety concerns.
- Health and safety controls don’t seem practical or employees are having to work around difficulties.
- Line managers don’t discuss:
- how to safely use new equipment;
- how to do a job safely.
- There is little or no evidence of information being cascaded through the organisation (eg team meetings, notice boards etc).
Additional factors to consider
Dynamic situations where the working environment changes regularly
- Worker consultation and involvement is fundamental in ensuring risks are effectively managed.
- How do you support the necessary increased emphasis on the workforce to work in a safe manner?
- Smaller businesses tend to have simpler, less formal systems in place such as face-to-face discussions, toolbox talks or periodic meetings on specific issues.
- Do your arrangements allow employees to have a say?
- Larger organisations are likely to require or have some form of formal system of consultation, although informal systems may be present as well.
- There should be effective consultation arrangements, including an appropriate number of health and safety representatives and representatives of employee safety, as well as safety committees and meetings for key issues such as organisational changes.