Only unions mean real worker involvement
Worker involvement is currently the biggest thing in health and safety, says the TUC. But Hugh Robertson, the union body's head of safety, has warned the positive chatter from enforcers and employers is not always translating into meaningful consultation at the workplace. Writing in Hazards magazine, he says companies 'are falling over themselves to ensure they engage the workforce on safety issues' and notes worker involvement is a key part of the Health and Safety Executive's 2009 strategy. But Robertson says the problem is that 'worker involvement' means different things to different people - and in some instances, that can mean problems. 'For unions it is about using consultative processes to empower people to have a genuine say in safety issues - but recognising too that the relationship between the employer and employee is an unequal one and that the responsibility to create a safe workplace lies with the employer,' he writes. He highlights evidence showing genuine union involvement delivers more effective training, meaningful participation and safer, healthier workplaces. But he warns that some employer initiatives do not have such virtuous motives, instead being 'about trying to shift responsibility away from management. Some are intended to undermine the role of unions.' He adds that 'the union safety effect' is well-established and should be expanded so the positive impact of union safety reps is harnessed in non-union and small firms. Robertson concludes 'employers and the government must change their attitude to unions and start seeing unions as an asset that can help make real reductions in both injury and ill-health in the workplace.'
Issued: 14 May, 2010