Health and safety reps – a brief guide

In every workplace union members can agree to appoint a SAFETY REPRESENTATIVE, this is a legal right and only union members decide if they want a safety rep and who it is.

Safety reps have legal rights. These are enshrined in the 1977 Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations and accompanying notes which all have the force of law. These regulations are often referred to as the “Brown Book”.

Once a safety rep is chosen by union members the headteacher, chair of governors and employer must be informed of the name of the safety rep in writing.

So too should the

  • NEU district secretary Alex Kenny – alex.kenny@neu.org.uk
  • NEU District health and safety advisor – Paul McGarr – prmcgarr@yahoo.co.uk

NEU guidance is that these can then inform the school and employer of who the safety rep is.

Safety reps have basic legal rights. The key ones include:

  • to carry out regular safety inspections of the workplaces. The NEU advises that in schools termly is good practice
  • time off to carry out such inspections (NEU guidance is half a day in small schools and full day in larger schools)
  • to be provided with all written documents and policies relating to health and safety
  • to be provided with copies for review of all risk assessments relating to workplaces related activities of all kinds (Risk assessments are management’s responsibility not the safety reps’)
  • the employer/school has a legal obligation to inform and consult safety reps “in good time” on changes and matters in the workplace which may affect the health and safety of members who the safety rep represents
  • each union can choose its own safety rep, but a safety rep for one union can represent staff in other unions by agreement as long as they have the same employer.
  • safety reps are entitled by law to paid time off for training – and the NEU provides excellent training course. Please discuss with the district secretary and/or the district health and safety advisor (see above) if you wish to undertake such training.

Safety inspections place no legal liability or obligation on safety reps. The role of the safety rep is to highlight and report possible issues. The responsibility for dealing with any issues raised rests with the employer not the safety rep.

The NEU produces a wealth of excellent material for safety reps, with detailed guidance on everything from carrying out safety inspections, legal rights and advice on a whole host of issues.

All of this is available on:

https://neu.org.uk/health-and-safety-advice

It includes detailed guidance on the role of a safety rep:

https://neu.org.uk/advice/role-safety-rep

And lots of helpful videos and pro-formas at:

https://neu.org.uk/health-and-safety-reps

There is also an NEU health and safety reps email group and mailing list, which safety reps can join if they wish to.

COVID 19

The situation around Covid 19 is clearly a health and safety issue.

Safety reps should be provided with the risk assessment covering existing arrangements in schools during the lockdown where schools are operating childcare for essential worker or vulnerable children- which should include protocols on ensuring safety.

This is a legal obligation on the school and employer.

Issues concerning these risk assessments, or difficulties obtaining them, should be raised with and reported to the district NEU secretary and the district NEU health and safety advisor (see above).

If there is any proposed wider opening of schools this is a significant change which means there is a legal requirement on schools to consult safety Reps “in good time” and ensure a risk assessment has been carried out and shared with safety reps who can then raise concerns.

Under Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act all employees have a legal right to refuse to be in a workplace if they believe it to be unsafe and to pose a threat to the health and safety of themselves or others.

Please contact the district secretary or district health and safety advisor if you wish to discuss any of this further or need assistance or advice.

Download a PDF version of this blog here: H&S Reps guide

5th April 2020