SAFed Health and Safety Passport Scheme

Module 2 — Communications and Consultation in the Workplace

2.1       Introduction

This document forms one of a series of modules on various health and safety subjects that comprise the examinable material considered necessary for the award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport.

When you have studied this module you should have acquired sufficient knowledge to be able to answer the questions detailed at the end of the module.  Upon satisfactory completion of all modules, you will be eligible to undertake the final assessment for the award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport.

The SAFed Health and Safety Passport is issued to Engineer Surveyors by the Health and Safety Manager of their employing company upon satisfactory completion of the Safety Passport final assessment.

The award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport provides evidence that the holder of the Passport has the appropriate knowledge and awareness in health and safety matters considered necessary for an Engineer Surveyor to undertake the duties for which they are authorised by their employing company.

The passport is valid for a maximum of three years.

2.2       Key Objectives

Having studied this module you should have an awareness of:

·         The relevant legislation associated with communication and consultation in the workplace.

·         Responsibilities and communication lines within the workplace.

·         The role of Safety Representatives.

·         The role of Health and Safety Inspectors.

2.3       Legal Commentary

Although there had been forms of consultation in the mining industry since 1872, which were reinforced in the Mines and Quarries Act 1954, it was not until the 1960’s that people were voluntarily involved in joint safety committees.  The Robens' Committee of 1970 looked closely at the importance of communications and consultation between employer and employee in the workplace and formal consultations started in the early 1970’s.

Section 2(4) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 makes provision for the appointment of safety representatives, by recognised trade unions, under regulations made by the Secretary of State.  These regulations are the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977, which are accompanied by an Approved Code of Practice and Guidance Notes.

In addition, there is a separate Approved Code of Practice on Time off for the Training of Safety Representatives.

The rights of none union members were enforced by the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 and the European Framework Directive 89/391/EEC.  These established the rights of all employees to be consulted on matters concerning their health and safety at work, whether or not they are members of a union and allowed for the appointment of none union safety representatives.

2.4            Discussion

Engineer surveyors are usually home-based workers who have limited direct contact with their head office or with their colleagues. It is therefore vitally important that they understand the roles of responsibility within their company for health and safety matters and that they are aware of communication routes for health and safety information and concerns.

They should appreciate the role and functions of their safety representatives, know who their representatives are and how to contact them and have a basic knowledge of the role and powers of HSE Inspectors.

2.5            Communications and Consultation in the Workplace

2.5.1            Responsibilities and Communication lines within the Workplace

The Managing Director of a company has overall responsibility for health and safety within that company and a duty to manage company policy and develop departmental policies.  He also has a responsibility to receive accident data, receive details of trends in accidents to his employees and to implement the requirements of existing and new legislation and the Enforcing Authority. 

Line Managers have direct responsibility for the health and safety of their staff.  These responsibilities include dealing with and investigating any work related health and safety matters raised by their staff, provision of training and monitoring of safety performance.

All employees are responsible to their immediate supervisor for their daily work activities relating to health and safety matters, which includes taking care of themselves and others who may be affected by their activities at work.  They are also required to comply with all statutory legislation and company procedures relating to health and safety.

Communications relating to health and safety matters within a company are of vital importance. Management needs both to give information to employees and to receive information from them and effective arrangements should be in place to facilitate this two-way flow.

The most important method of communication is by word of mouth, through personal contact between each manager and his immediate workgroup or individual employees, and between managers and employee representatives.  Personal contact should be supplemented as necessary by written information through, for example, notice boards, databases, e-mails or company journals.  Training, especially induction courses for new employees, and meetings arranged for special purposes are also means of instructing in health and safety matters and for exchange of views and information.

Management also has a responsibility to disclose information on the company’s health and safety performance and this should include accident details and data and minutes of health and safety meetings.

They are also required to provide training, information or supervision where necessary on all work equipment and safe working procedures.

2.5.2    The Role of Safety Representatives

Safety representatives are usually selected from persons who have at least two years experience with their employer or in similar employment, although this is not a mandatory requirement.  The employer must give the representative time off with pay for the purpose of carrying out his / her functions as a safety representative and for attending relevant training courses.

The main function of a safety representative is to represent the employees in health and safety consultations with the employer.  Other functions include attending meetings of the safety committee, assisting in investigations into the cause of accidents, carrying out safety inspections of the workplace, investigation of potential hazards in the workplace and receiving information from health and safety inspectors. 

Safety representatives also have the right to receive relevant information from the employer relating to health and safety matters within the workplace.  For example, accident records and details of hazards.

Complaints against the employer concerning refusal to provide, or allow time off for, training and for not paying for that time off are heard by an Industrial Tribunal.

2.5.3    The Role of Health and Safety Executive Inspectors

Enforcement of health and safety legislation is carried out by HSE inspectors who are authorised by a written warrant outlining the powers they may exercise.  An inspector must produce his warrant on request; without it he has no powers of enforcement.

A HSE inspector has the following powers:

·         The right to enter a premises and if resisted enlist the help of a police officer.

·         To inspect the premises.

·         To require, following an accident, that the plant is not disturbed.

·         To take measurements and photographs.

·         To take samples of suspect substances.

·         To require tests to be carried out on suspect plant or substances.

·         To require the dismantling of plant.

·         To require that those with possible knowledge relevant to his investigation to give it either verbally or in a written statement.

·         The right to inspect and take copies of books or documents required to be kept by safety or other legislation as part of his investigation.

If an inspector is of the opinion that a breach has occurred, or is likely to occur, he may serve an IMPROVEMENT NOTICE on the employer or workmen.  The notice must state which statutory provision the inspector believes has been contravened and the time limit in which the matter should be put right.

If the activity involves immediate risk of serious personal injury, the inspector may serve a PROHIBITION NOTICE requiring immediate cessation of the activity.  The notice must state what, in the opinion of the inspector, is the cause of the risk and any possible contravention.  If the risk is great, but not immediate, a DEFERRED PROHIBITION NOTICE may be served stating a date after which the activity must cease unless the matter has been remedied.

Appeals against a notice may be made to an Industrial Tribunal.

It is an offence to ignore an HSE inspector’s notice, to obstruct an inspector, to make false statements or to pretend to be an inspector.

2.6       End of module and next steps

Well done!  By reaching this point you will have finished studying this particular module.  You should now have sufficient knowledge to answer the questions contained at the end of the module.

Answers to the questions should be forwarded to your Health and Safety Manager.

Provided that you have answered the questions correctly, your Health and Safety Manager will forward to you your next self study module.

To answer Module 2 Questions Click here