What is worker involvement?
This means involvement of the workforce beyond the required legal minimum standard (ie more than consultation), where you develop a genuine management/workforce partnership based on trust, respect and co-operation.
With such a partnership in place, a culture can evolve in which health and safety problems are jointly solved and in which concerns, ideas and solutions are freely shared and acted upon.
The effect of workforce involvement is that operational practices and health and safety risk management are aligned for the benefit of all and with the co-operation of everyone (workers, their representatives and managers) - see Are you doing what you need to do?.
Co-ordination with contractors
The second aspect of co-operation is co-ordination with contractors, as well as others in an organisation's supply chain.
As health and safety affects the entire workforce of an organisation, it makes sense for all workers to be involved in managing health and safety.
Ways of involving workers
Involving workers is key to integrating health and safety as part of everyday business rather than being seen as something done by somebody else.
Organisations can find appropriate ways to involve their workers in managing health and safety. For smaller firms, this may be simply:
- encouraging open communications (eg toolbox talks, suggestion schemes, notice boards, or health and safety walkabouts) where workers can discuss or raise their concerns
- giving recognition when workers identify risks
For larger businesses, more formal health and safety forums or committees can be a means of enabling worker involvement which may need to cater for part-time workers and contractors.
Contacts with external services
Employers need to ensure that any necessary contacts with external services are arranged, and procedures are put in place so workers know what to do in situations presenting serious and imminent danger, such as a fire.
You need to have effective arrangements for first aid, emergency medical care and rescue work. This may only mean making sure that workers know the necessary telephone numbers and, where there is a significant risk, they are able to contact any help they need.
Contacts and arrangements with external services should be recorded, and should be reviewed and revised as necessary.
Where a number of employers share a workplace and their workers face the same risks, one employer should arrange contacts on behalf of themselves and the other employers.
In high-hazard workplaces, employers should designate appropriate staff to routinely contact the emergency services and utilities.
They should provide enough information for those services and utilities to take appropriate action in emergencies, including those likely to happen outside normal working hours.
Employers must explain clearly the procedure for any worker to follow in serious and imminent danger.
Employees and others at work need to know when they should stop work and how they should move to a place of safety. In some cases this will require full evacuation of the workplace, in others it might mean some or all of the workforce moving to a safer part of the workplace.
Emergency planning and co-operation with the emergency services
Police officers, firefighters and other emergency service workers, for example, may sometimes need to work in circumstances of serious or imminent danger in order to fulfil their commitment to the public. The procedures should reflect these responsibilities, and the time delay before such workers can move to a place of safety.
Work should not be resumed after an emergency if a serious danger remains. If there are any doubts, expert assistance should be sought, eg from the emergency services and others.
A danger area is a work environment where the level of risk is unacceptable, but an employee must enter without taking special precaution. Such areas are not necessarily static, in that minor alterations or an emergency may convert a normal working environment into a danger area.
The hazard involved need not occupy the whole area (as in the case of a toxic gas) but can be localised, eg where there is a risk of an employee coming into contact with bare, live electrical conductors. The area must be restricted to prevent inadvertent access.
Exceptional circumstances for re-entering danger areas
For emergency service workers there may be circumstances when re-entering serious danger areas may be deemed necessary, for example where human life is at risk. When such exceptional circumstances can be anticipated, the procedures should set out the special protective measures to be taken (and the pre-training required), as well as the steps needed to authorise such actions.
Principles that help clarify how health and safety law is applied to police activities are summarised in a high-level statement Striking the balance between operational and health and safety duties in the Police Service and are expanded upon in an explanatory note.
Similarly, for the Fire and Rescue Service, see Striking the balance between operational and health and safety duties in the Fire and Rescue Service.