This is the 12th biennial TUC survey of safety representatives. The report is analysed by senior TUC policy officials and union health and safety specialists in order to understand the changing experience of safety representatives at work and to help provide more support. The TUC also uses the survey report and outputs to inform public policy debates and in work with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The TUC also wants Union Safety Representatives and Safety Committees to discuss and use the report to help with their ongoing work.
The CWU's National Health, Safety and Environment Officer, Dave Joyce; examines the survey results:
A total of 1,073 safety representatives responded to the questionnaire either on paper or online in the period March-July 2018, compared with 1,039 in the 2016 survey. The responses provide much information about the profile of safety representatives, the work they do to improve safety and the help (or otherwise) they get in this from employers and enforcement agencies.
In ‘Transport and Communications’, the industry covering the majority of CWU Safety Reps and members, twice as many Safety Representatives from Transport and Communications, including CWU Safety Reps, responded to the survey in 2018 compared with 2016, but their main concerns are little changed. Stress is still the most widespread concern but concern over long hours has slipped back from second to fifth place. Main concerns expressed by Safety Reps from this sector were; Stress 60% Bullying/harassment, 41% Slips Trips and Falls 39% Back strains 36% Long hours 35%.
The five most frequently cited hazards of main concern in 2018, across all Safety Reps in all sectors were stress, bullying/harassment, overwork, back strains and slips, trips and falls on the level.
The first four are the same as in 2016 but slips, trips and falls has replaced long hours on the level in fifth place, returning the top five to the same position as in 2014.
The most notable change since 2016 in the list of main concerns is the elevation of working alone, which jumped from 10th place to sixth place. One in four safety representatives (25%) cited it this year, compared with one in six (18%) two years ago.
- Stress – once again stands out as the main dominant health and safety hazard of concern, identified as a top-five hazard by 69% of safety representatives in the survey.
- Bullying/harassment – concern over this hazard has grown more widespread in recent years, with 45% of safety representatives putting it in their top five.
- Overwork – still in third place, with 36% of respondents citing it in 2018.
- Slips, Trips and Falls – concern has risen slightly, from 28% to 31%.
- Violence and threats – 23% citing it in 2018.
- Managing health and safety – 8 in 10 safety representatives (80%) say their employer has conducted formal risk assessments but one in five safety reps felt they were inadequate. Fewer than half (47%) of all respondents in the survey felt their employer had conducted adequate risk assessments.
- Safety representatives’ rights – There has been a welcome increase in the number of employers who are automatically consulting health and safety representatives on health and safety issues, but it is still only 28% rather than the 100% that it should be. However, one in seven of all safety representatives in the survey say management has at some time refused them time off for training. 21% are never automatically consulted by their employer over health, safety and welfare matters – although that is down from the 28% saying so in 2016. 28% are frequently automatically consulted. This will continue to be a problem until such time as employers start to recognise the value of having union health and safety representatives.
- Enforcement – The decline in inspection activity was once more reflected in the responses. The 2018 survey indicates that inspections by health and safety enforcement agencies remain low, and are perhaps worsening. Over half (52%) of safety representatives say their workplace has never, as far as they know, been inspected by a health and safety inspector, compared with 46% in 2016. Just 22% said there had been an inspection within the last 12 months (24% in 2016).
Even amongst the workplace that received an inspection from health and safety enforcement, only 30% of the union health and safety representatives were able to speak to an inspector directly, despite all inspectors being expected to contact any health and safety representatives. The continued reduction in regular, proactive inspections by HSE and LAs makes the monitoring and subsequent improvement of workplace health and safety even more difficult to manage and the TUC, CWU and other Unions will continue to call for an increase in the number of inspections and for the HSE and local authorities to ensure that all inspectors automatically insist in meeting health and safety inspectors where they exist.
- OH Services – There have been some positive trends in the types of OH services provided, including more widespread access to rehabilitation and more common provision of advice on prevention.
A copy of the final report is available to download from the E-Library Database by choosing ing search category of: Trade Union Reports
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