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 you and their co-workers.
The law sets out what functions representatives have. All representatives can:
- represent the workforce on health and safety generally, or make representations on potential hazards and dangers;
- attend training courses; and
- have contact with health and safety inspectors from HSE or the local authority.
However, by law, only representatives appointed by trade unions can examine the causes of accidents, investigate potential hazards and dangers, inspect the workplace, and request that you set up a safety committee. You do not have to allow elected representatives to perform the same functions. But you may find the benefits to their business of involving and consulting them in such ways are actually better, or other factors like the nature of their business make it more suitable for them to allow elected representatives extra roles.
Functions of health and safety representatives elected by your workforce
The law makes it clear that they can:
- take up concerns with you about potential hazards and dangerous events in the workplace that may affect the employees they represent;
- take up general matters affecting the health, safety and welfare of the employees they represent; and
- represent employees when consulted by health and safety inspectors.