Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Consulting on H&S

Employers must, by law consultant with employees on health and safety matters. Consultation is not just giving information, but also listening to and taking account of what employees say before making decisions. They must allow enough time and provide means by which comments can be made.

Topics to consult on include
* Any change which may substantially affect H&S at work, (e.g. procedures, equipment or ways of working);
* Arrangements for getting competent people to help satisfy H&S laws;
* Information that employees must be given on the likely risks and dangers arising from their work, measures to reduce or get rid of these risks and what they should do if they have to deal with a risk or danger;
* The planning of health and safety training; and
* The health and safety consequences of introducing new technology.

The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (SRSCR) 1977 concerns employers that recognise trade unions. If safety representatives have been appointed then the employer must consult them on matters affecting the group or groups of
employees they represent (which may include non-members of the union).

The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations (HSCER) 1996 covers employees not represented by trade union safety representatives. In this case employers must consult them either directly or through elected representatives.

A H&S committee can be an effective method of consultation and has the benefit of demonstrating commitment and providing a forum where consultation can take place whilst notes and records are made. For a committee to be effective it is important that:
* To have management commitment;
* Provide terms of reference for the committee;
* Set an agenda
* Take minutes of the meetings ;
* Balance management and employee representatives;
* Have a good chairmanship;
* Have frequent meetings;
* Ensure topics for discussion are appropriate
* Provide access to health and safety expertise
* Provide some power for decision making.

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