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Workers are best placed to spot problems with their jobs that might affect their health and safety. When it comes to hazards in the workplace they are the ones facing them. So when decisions about their own health and safety need making – or research needs doing – it’s plain common sense to involve them. It’s one major reason union workplaces are healthier and safer workplaces.
An HSE and HSC joint statements agrees: “Workers who are encouraged to have a voice and are given the ability to influence health and safety are safer and healthier than those who do not. A universally involved and consulted workforce would be a major achievement and contribute to getting health and safety recognised as a ‘cornerstone of a civilised society.’”
The International Labour Organisation also agrees, arguing that involving workers in grassroots health and safety research will “help empower workers to increase their level of control over their own work situations, to protect their health and well being, and to improve their level of basic security.”
Participatory research methods such as body and risk mapping can highlight the health effects and hazards of particular jobs that may otherwise have been put down to “just general aches and pains”, “getting old” or “being clumsy.”
Trade union safety reps - and to a lesser extent the proposed ‘roving reps’ - can draw the worker and the point of health and safety decision making closer through effective communication.