The role of the health and safety representative is independent of management. Representatives are there to represent the interests and concerns of their co-workers and respond on their behalf. They provide valuable insight, skills and resources that help employers and their co-workers.
The law sets out what functions representatives have. All representatives, either appointed by trade unions or elected by employees can:
- represent the workforce on health and safety generally, or make representations on potential hazards and dangers;
- attend training courses; and
- have contact with inspectors.
Functions of union-appointed health and safety representatives
The law makes it clear that they can:
- represent employees generally and when you consult them about specific matters that will affect the health, safety and welfare of the employees;
- represent employees when Health and Safety Inspectors from HSE or local authorities consult them;
- investigate accidents, near misses, and other potential hazards and dangerous occurrences in the workplace;
- investigate complaints made by an employee they represent about their health, safety or welfare in the workplace;
- present the findings of investigations to you;
- inspect the workplace;
- with at least one other appointed representative, request in writing that you set up a health and safety committee; and
- attend Health and Safety Committee meetings as a representative of your employees.