Joint occupation of premises
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations states explicitly that where two or more employers share a workplace – whether on a temporary or a permanent basis – each employer shall:
- cooperate with other employers;
- take reasonable steps to coordinate with other employers to comply with legal requirements;
- take reasonable steps to inform other employers where there are risks to health and safety
All employers and self-employed people involved should ensure that the arrangements adopted are adequate. Where a particular employer controls the premises, the other employers should help to assess the shared risks and coordinate any necessary control procedures. Where there is no controlling employer, the organizations present should agree on joint arrangements to meet regulatory obligations, such as appointing a health and safety coordinator.
Consultation with the workforce
It is essential to gain the cooperation of all employees if a successful health and safety culture is to become established. This cooperation is best achieved by consultation. Joint consultation can help businesses be more efficient and effective by reducing the number of accidents and work-related ill health and motivating staff by making them aware of health and safety problems.
Two pieces of legislation cover health and safety consultation with employees, summarized in Chapter 17. The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 and the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996. These Regulations require employers to consult with their employees on health and safety matters and provide trade union-appointed safety representatives and representatives of employee safety (RES) elected by the workforce.
Employers must consult their workforce on a range of health and safety issues, including:
- any measures at the workplace which may substantially affect their health and safety, for example, changes in systems of work, types of equipment or chemicals being used;
- arrangements for getting competent people to help them comply with health and safety requirements;
- the information that must be given to employees about risks to health and safety and any preventative measures;
- planning and organizing health and safety training;
- The health and safety consequences of using new technology or substances.
Also, in workplaces in which the employer recognizes a trade union:
- The employer must consult with trade-union-appointed safety representatives on health and safety matters affecting the employees they represent. Trade -union-appointed safety representatives may:
- investigate possible dangers at work, the causes of accidents there, and general complaints by employees on health and safety issues and take these up with the employer;
- carry out inspections of the workplace;
- represent employees in discussions with the HSE inspectors and receive information from them;
- Attend safety committee meetings.
In workplaces in which trade unions are not recognized:
- Employees must be consulted on health and safety directly or through their elected representatives. Elected RES may:
- take up with employers’ concerns about possible risks and dangerous events in the workplace that may affect the employees they represent;
- take up with employers general matters affecting the health and safety of the employees they represent;
- Represent employees who elected them in consultations with health and safety inspectors.
Finally, an employer should ensure that all representatives receive reasonable training in health and safety at the employer’s expense, are allowed time during working hours to perform their duties, and provide other facilities and assistance that the representatives should reasonably require.
The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977
These Regulations apply only to those organizations that have recognized trade unions for collective bargaining purposes. The recognized trade union may appoint safety representatives from among the employees and notify the employer in writing. In some workplaces, safety representatives have agreed to represent the entire workforce.
The Regulations give safety representatives several functions, not duties (a failure to carry out a function is not a breach of the law as it would be if they were legal duties). Functions include:
- Representing employees in consultation with the employer;
- Investigating potential hazards and dangerous occurrences;
- Being involved with risk assessment procedures;
- Investigating the causes of accidents, cases of work-related diseases or ill health, and dangerous occurrences;
- Investigating employee complaints relating to health, safety, and welfare;
- Making representations to the employer on health, safety, and welfare matters;
- Carrying out inspections of the workplace. They must also be allowed to inspect the workplace at least once a quarter or sooner if there has been a substantial change in the conditions of work;
- Representing employees at the workplace in consultation with enforcing inspectors, receiving information from health and safety inspectors & attending safety committee meetings.
Representatives must be allowed time off with pay to fulfill these functions and undergo health and safety training. They must have access to suitable facilities and assistance to carry out their functions.