The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that the evidence is clear that where businesses have good workforce involvement, they achieve better performance in health and safety and better productivity because staff are motivated and feel engaged in the organisation.
To assist organisations in the changing world of work, the HSE has launched a new set of guidance on consulting and involving the workforce. This includes a completely new good practice guide that draws upon the established legislation and applies this to today’s workplaces through a series of good practice tips and new case studies.
Launched in October at the HSE Worker Involvement Conference, the publications aim to reinvigorate and emphasise the importance of staff participation in managing health and safety issues.
Better guidance for employers
The new good practice guidance ‘Involving your workforce in health and safety: Good practice guidance for all workplaces’ will help employers in their duty to consult and involve their workforce on health and safety matters. The guide concentrates on good practice based on the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (as amended) and the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 (as amended). The guide is designed to distinguish different types of information with references to the regulations colour coded. It was developed in partnership with key stakeholders in response to the need for better guidance for employers on how to consult. A web-version of the good practice guidance is available at the HSE website www.hse.gov.uk/involvement/index.htm along with detail on some of the topics (for example safety committees).
Consulting with employees
Two free leaflets were also launched - ‘Involving your workers in health and safety: A guide for small businesses’ aimed mainly at employers in workplaces with fewer than 25 employees and where it is normally practical for employers to consult with employees directly. In addition, another called ‘Consulting employees on health and safety – a brief guide to the law’. This leaflet provides an overview of employers’ duties to consult with their employees or their representatives on health and safety matters, providing a brief overview of the legal requirements.
Finally, the revised legal series ‘Consulting workers on health and safety’ publication gives the law and guidance on the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (1977) and the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations (1996). It explains the relationship between the two sets of regulations and how they affect the employer and their workforce and how in some organisations the employer may need to consult under both sets of regulations. The publication contains revises, and brings up-to-date the guidance given in earlier once separate versions and contains additional information including an overview of the specific requirements to consult employees, or their health and safety representatives on other health and safety legislation which applies to specific industries. The law has not changed.
Worker in involvement
Involvement of the workforce is a principle which applies to every organisation irrespective of size, representation, structure or any other factor, so the HSE publications should apply to the majority of workplaces.
Statistics from HSE’s latest 2007 Fit3 survey show that nine out of ten employers state that their workers are involved in health and safety management through either a formal or an informal system. However, when asked for further information only about four in ten employers have regular meetings with workers, designated health and safety representatives or a health and safety committee. So, whilst the majority of employers report they involve their workers, only a much smaller number appear to have practices that approach those considered good practice by HSE. There is still plenty of room to improve the quality of worker involvement.
The law clearly places duties on those who create the risks but it also requires employers to work co-operatively with their workforce to reduce the toll of harm in the workplace. Most employers, ensure that they are meeting their legal duties, but do welcome guidance and advice.
Consulting and involving the workforce in making work activities safe and healthy should be normal practice because it is the right thing to do and because it works and delivers real benefits. Health and safety matters should be the basis of trust, co-operation and joint problem solving between employers and employees in every workplace. The new guidance will help organisations put in place what is appropriate for their organisation.
Visit: www.hse.gov.uk for more information