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What requirement is there for my employer to consult me and other employees on health and safety matters?
There are regulations requiring employers to provide general information to employees and to consult representatives on health and safety matters.
Employers must display a poster or distribute leaflets giving general information about the requirements of health and safety law. Information must be provided on risks to which employees are exposed and the procedures to be taken in the event of danger.
Where there are union-appointed safety representatives, the employer must consult them on health and safety matters affecting the employees they represent.
The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 provide for the appointment of safety representatives (where there is a recognised trade union). Also, where safety representatives request it, the Regulations provide for the setting up of a safety committee. Where there is no recognised union the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 will apply. The employer must provide the necessary information to enable the employees' safety representatives, or representatives of employee safety, to participate fully and effectively in the consultation. In the case of safety representatives, the information must also be sufficient to enable them to carry out their functions under the Regulations. These include:
- investigation of potential hazards and dangerous occurrences, and examining the causes of accidents;
- investigation of members' complaints;
- making representations to the employer;
- carrying out inspections at least every three months – as well as after a notifiable accident, dangerous occurrence or after a notifiable disease has been contracted;
- consulting and receiving information from Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors and other enforcement officers on behalf of members; and
- attending meetings of the safety committee.
The employer must ensure that each safety representative is provided with reasonable training in respect of that representative's functions under the Regulations. The employer must pay the cost of the training.
The employer must also allow each representative such time off with pay (during working hours) as is necessary to enable them to undergo training (or to perform their functions) and must allow similar time off to a candidate standing for election as a representative, in order to perform their functions as a candidate.
A representative or candidate has a right to complain to an employment tribunal if the employer fails to provide paid time off for these activities.