Case study – The SRSC Regulations 40 years on
When the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees (SRSC) Regulations 1977 were first printed, they were about 4” by 9” (10 cm x 23 cm) and were commonly referred to as ‘The Little Brown Book’. It was recognised that the safety rep needed a copy in work where they would be used to ensure the full implementation of the new Health & Safety at Work Act 74. They were just the right size to fit in the pocket of a pair of overalls, commonly worn by the factory worker at the time.
The Health and Safety Commission knew that only through partnership between the management and the trade unions could workplace conditions be improved.
Since then, the work environment has become a different place. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s era of deregulation, the SRSC Regulations remained the same. Although we may have lost most of our heavy industry, now we have witnessed the growth of the service sector and the regulations are more important than ever. The accessibility to the ‘Little Brown Book’ has also changed, it is now is now printed in A4 and available free to download.
The key to the success of the SRSC Regulations is that they provide Union Health and Safety Representatives with the right to as much time off as ‘necessary’ in order to fulfil their functions and not simply a ‘reasonable amount of time off’ given to other Union Reps.
Regulations are clearly defined in legislation, whilst the special legal status of Approved Codes of Practice, commonly referred to by Union Representatives, do not always receive the due recognition from employers; this can cause difficulties in the relationship. Employers are under enormous strain to keep down costs and stay competitive which can lead to misjudgements and misunderstanding. It has been shown that employers who have trade union health and safety committees have half the injury rate of those employers who manage safety without unions or joint arrangements; this clearly shows the benefit delivered to both employers and workers by Health and Safety reps. (TUC: The Union Effect 2015).
Today’s hazards are not as obvious as in earlier years, more Trade Union Safety Reps are trained to recognise these ‘invisible’ dangers such as excessive workplace stress (45% lost days per year are caused by stress). The rise in stress and musculoskeletal disorders has meant that the modern safety rep now has to research the underlying causes, not something the under pressured manager might immediately recognise.
Safety Representatives and the SRSC Regulations are still vital in today’s workplace. In a world where no one has a job for life, workers need a voice from the shop floor, office or call centre. The Health & Safety at Work Act 74 working together with the increase of Trade Union Health and Safety Reps has been instrumental in reducing deaths and life changing accidents for over 43 years
So, in an uncertain future and moves to a more automated workplace, do the SRSC Regulations still have a place? Yes, they offer a counter-balance to modern financial pressures and ensure the worker’s voice is heard. The SRSC Regulations enable Safety Reps to provide the crucial eyes, ears and knowledge of what is and what is not working well. Today, the SRSC Regulations are kept on our phones, tablets and
e-readers but we still use them every day to investigate and inspect in order to prevent long latency health conditions and promote health and safety.
Happy Birthday SRSC Regulations!
John James, University & College Union Branch Chair and
TUC Education Co-ordinator, Coleg Gwent