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RR363 - The role and effectiveness of safety representatives in influencing workplace health and safety

This study presents a review of the quantitative and qualitative evidence for the link between worker representation and consultation and effective health and safety management. Through a series of detailed case studies in two sectors of the economy, it examines the dynamics of representation and consultation in improving health and safety performance. Its review of previous studies and the evidence of the case studies detailed in the report support a conclusion that joint arrangements, through which workers are represented and consulted on their health and safety, are likely to have better outcomes than arrangements in which management acts without consultation. However, it suggests that arrangements for worker representation and consultation are dependent upon a number of preconditions for their effectiveness. These include a strong legislative steer, effective external inspection and control, demonstrable senior management commitment and capacity towards both health and safety and a participative approach, competent hazard/risk evaluation and control, effective autonomous worker representation at the workplace and external trade union support. Such preconditions were not present in the majority of the case studies and both they and the review of the wider literature suggest that changes in the structure and organisation of work mean that achieving them present considerable challenges. Nevertheless, the study found a number of examples of ways in which these challenges had been successfully addressed. It suggests therefore that there are important messages presented by these examples for regulators, trade unions and employers alike if worker representation and consultation is to be supported in realising its potential to contribute to improved health and safety outcomes.

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Updated 2010-03-19