07/01/2005

Safety representatives are good news for workplaces

The British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a study reviewing
the quantitative and qualitative evidence for the link between worker
representation and consultation and effective health and safety management.
Through a series of detailed case studies in two sectors of the economy, it
examines the dynamics of representation and consultation in improving health
and safety performance. Its review of previous studies and the evidence of the
case studies detailed in the report support a conclusion that joint
arrangements, through which workers are represented and consulted on their
health and safety, are likely to have better outcomes than arrangements in
which management acts without consultation.

However, it suggests that arrangements for worker representation and
consultation are dependent upon a number of preconditions for their
effectiveness. These include a strong legislative steer, effective external
inspection and control, demonstrable senior management commitment and capacity
towards both health and safety and a participative approach, competent
hazard/risk evaluation and control, effective autonomous worker representation
at the workplace and external trade union support. Such preconditions were not
present in the majority of the case studies and both they and the review of the
wider literature suggest that changes in the structure and organisation of work
mean that achieving them present considerable challenges. Nevertheless, the
study found a number of examples of ways in which these challenges had been
successfully addressed. It suggests therefore that there are important messages
presented by these examples for regulators, trade unions and employers alike if
worker representation and consultation is to be supported in realising its potential to contribute to improved
health and safety outcomes.

The main conclusion of the study is that worker representation and consultation
in the UK have a significant role to play in improving health and safety at
work. They have the potential to raise health and safety awareness amongst both
workers and managers, effect improvement in arrangements for managing health
and safety, improve the practical implementation of these arrangements, and
contribute to improved health and safety performance. Most importantly they
represent means by which workers' voice can be heard and acted upon to the
benefit of those that experience the risks of the production process.

The findings confirm that there are certain preconditions for effective
representation and consultation. Arguably, most of these preconditions, such as
the commitment of senior management to health and safety and its systematic
management, competent risk evaluation and control and effective external
inspection are simply aspects of good occupational health and safety management
practice that is already required by EU and UK law. It also follows that they
are likely to be most effectively operationalised in a climate of good
industrial relations. As our study shows, there was a strong association
between workers' positive experiences of various measures of consultative
management generally and their experiences in relation to consultation on
health and safety specifically.

Further Information:


AplusA-online.de - Source: Health and Safety Exekutive