Role of a Health and Safety Representative
The representative's part in a well-oiled health and safety machine
The most important thing to remember with both trade union-appointed and internally-elected health and safety representatives is that when performing their role they are free from the management's authority. Their role is to provide representation to the management on behalf of the workforce on health and safety issues; as such they act as an intermediary, relaying concerns that have been conveyed to them by the workers. Both types have a similar role, which includes:
There are several core functions that are alike for both union appointed and internally elected representatives, which are:
- representation of workers to management
- representation of workers to health and safety inspectors and officials.
The role of an elected representative under law is more limited than that of a union-appointed official, though through agreement between an elected representative and the employers the role can be expanded to include other duties.
Functions that the law specifically prescribes to a trade union representative are:
- to investigate accidents, near-misses and potential hazards
- to investigate employee complaints relating to health and safety
- report the findings of these investigations to the management
- inspect the workplace for health and safety issues
- request, in conjunction with at least one other union representative, the formation of a health and safety committee
- attend the meeting of such a committee as a representative of the workforce.
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