The most effective tool that we have in ensuring good health and safety at work is trade unions, because organised workplaces are safer workplaces. 

Evidence shows that workplaces with union safety reps and joint union-management safety committees have major injury rates less than half of those without. Unions make a difference. We reduce injuries, improve ill-health and help change the safety culture within an organisation. At the core of this are safety representatives.

Safety reps' rights and functions include a legal right to:

  • Represent employees in discussions with the employer on health, safety or welfare and in discussions with HSE or other enforcing authorities;
  • investigate hazards and dangerous occurrences;
  • investigate complaints; carry out inspections of the workplace and inspect relevant documents;
  • attend safety committees;
  • be paid for time spent on carrying out their functions, and to undergo training.

The legal rights of safety Representatives can be found in the "Brown Book" which is the regulations, code of practice and guidance on safety representatives. The TUC has produced a version of the "Brown Book" for training purposes (PDF).

To help safety representatives undertake their role there are a considerable number of resources available from the TUC. The HSE also has some useful pages, including forms to use with inspections and for reporting injuries or incidents and a form for reporting issues that the employer refuses to address.

Want to share and get advice from other reps? Join our UnionReps discussion forum.

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Resources

Being a Health and Safety Representative - A simple guide to what the role means

"Brown Book" Safety representatives and safety committees (PDF) - This booklet also lists all other health and safety legislation that requires employers to consult with employees or safety representatives.

The union effect - How unions make a difference on health and safety

Guides and reports for representatives

Reporting issues to the HSE (safety reps only)

Health and Safety Inspections: A TUC Guide (PDF)

Time off for training for Safety reps (PDF)

Organising for Health and Safety: A TUC Resource for use in the workplace (PDF)

Hazards Magazine - Hazards looks behind the company safety hype, and gives union answers to workplace problems. 

Order Hazards at Work. A invaluable tool for all union health and safety representatives