2024-03-06 14:42

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Guide For Safety Reps On Legal Rights And Accident Investigation

Good idea for ALL Union Officials To read and understand the USR roles and responsibilities

CWU's National Health, Safety And Environment National Officer has written to all CWU Branches detailing the roles and rights of its Union Safety Reps in order to ensure there is no misunderstanding regarding the employer's duty to ensure that USRs are given the time and the facilities to carry out their statutory function, one of which is to investigate accidents and near-misses.

Currently within the Union, there is a misconception of what USRs do and their rights and responsibilities. This guide, whilst aimed at USRs, provides information pertinent to the USR role which if read by all CWU Branch and National Officers; will ensure clarity over the role of USRs within their Branches and at National level.

Union Safety Reps are the only Trade Union officials with statutory rights, roles, and responsibilities.

In his letter to branches (LTB087/24), Dave opens with an introduction as to the reason for issueing his LTB:

imagae: Dave Joyce, CWU National Officer"Following the recently published HSE Research findings that accidents appropriate to be reported under the ‘Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations’ (RIDDOR) were being under-reported by as much as 70%, it was felt to be an appropriate time to issue guidance to Safety Representatives on this key issue."

Given that there is currently a serious issue over the lack of provision of accident reports to USRs from a number of the employers that have active CWU USR's in their workplaces; the documentation attached to this LTB is of most important essence of the rights of being provided accident information in a timely manner in order for the appropriate USR to be able to investigate it.

Dave continues:

"In light of the findings, which are no surprise to the Health, Safety & Environment department, under-reporting is the norm and Safety Reps are advised to:

  • Ensure that accidents are both properly reported and notified by members.
  • Investigate workplace accidents.
  • Receive and retain information relating to workplace accidents.

It is vital that all accidents, illnesses and near misses in the workplace are reported so that the cause of the accident and injuries can be identified and lessons can be learned so as to avoid re-occurrences."

He explains further:

"Safety Reps need to make sure they are aware of what management have to do when accidents occur and make sure it is done.  Ensure that members know that they need to report all accidents and check that details are communicated promptly to the Safety Rep so that firstly, a check can be made on management fulfilling the employer’s legal obligations and secondly, that a prompt investigation is conducted, making sure that management are providing a safe place to work and safe systems of work in a safe working environment by carrying out regular workplace inspections – which Safety Reps are legally entitled to do."

image: Safety Reps legal rights - click to downloadTurning to the statutory rights of USRs, Dave refers to the appropriate legislation:

"The Safety Representative and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 set out the legal functions for safety representatives, which include the right to investigate:

  • Potential hazards
  • Dangerous occurrences
  • Causes of accidents and occupational ill-health
  • Complaints from their members

Safety Reps can therefore, immediately, and without formal notice of an inspection, investigate imminent risks and accidents. 

The Regulations give Reps the right to conduct an inspection after there has been a notifiable accident or dangerous occurrence or where a notifiable disease has been contracted.

The Regulations state that Safety Reps can inspect where it is “reasonably practicable” for them to do so, provided it is safe to do so and in the interests of employees represented.

Following an incident, the only acceptable reason for anything to be moved is as a precaution against further hazards and for rescue purposes.

The Regulations support Safety Reps’ rights to take witness statements after an accident has occurred.

By consulting members on a regular basis regarding workplace accidents, Safety Reps can monitor how well management are doing in recording workplace accidents and then implementing preventative measures."

image: Investigating Accidents and Incidents - click to downloadGiven that Union Safety Reps time to fulfill their statutory roles is currently under attack from some employers having a CWU represented workforce, it is incumbent upon the Union for USRS in such a situation to be fully supported and that any restrictions on their ability to carry out their functions; are investigated and resolved.

In particular the picking on or otherwise victimising USRs for the work they do, is increasing amongst employers, and breaks both Employment Rights and is in contravention of the Safety Representative and Safety Committees Regulations 1977.

Ultimately, if the USR is dismissed for doing any aspects of their role, this is an issues that sees employment tribunals being brought against some employers on the grounds of constructive dismissal.

LTB087/24 continues with statement form the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on the rights of USRs:

“Occupational accidents and ill health can be signals that risk control measures have failed.  If they are properly investigated, this can reveal weaknesses in the control systems which need to be remedied. 

A joint investigation with the safety representative is more likely to give employees the confidence to co-operate fully in any investigation, because those involved may not wish to reveal any details in case they are blamed for the accident.  Also, what someone says immediately after an accident may affect any subsequent civil compensation claim.”

image: Brown Book - click to downloadIn dealing with the actions USRs must tale following an accident or incident of near-miss, the LTB states:

Following An Accident Or Near-Miss A Safety Rep Should:

  • Gather the evidence including witness statements.
  • Put the evidence into chronological order (it will help to determine what happened).
  • Use the decision making process to ensure that measures are taken to prevent re-occurrence.
  • Report your findings to management, including your recommendations and any possible breaches of legislation
    (in writing – retaining copies).

The remainder of the LTB provides details of the new HSE guidance and further advice to Safety Reps in carrying out their roles, including Inspections After An Accident, and the Blaming Accident Victims; as well as copies of a couple of documents, both of which are available from the Unionsafety E-Library.

Both the HSE Guidance (HSG24) ‘Investigating accidents and incidents – a workbook for employers, unions, safety representatives and safety professionals’ and the 'Safety Reps Legal Rights To Inspect and Investigate – Law Summary Sheet' are available to download; as is the full text of LTB087/24 and a copy of the USR Bible, 'The Brown Book' HERE

Source: CWU / TUC / unionsafety

Pic: Bak to News icon link

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