The TUC has launched new guidance to help recruit more union members and encourage more existing union members to become health and safety reps.
The UK’s current network of 100,000 union safety reps work hard to reduce injuries and ill-health at work, and the TUC trains around 10,000 safety reps every year, who focus on finding and resolving potential problems at work. Union reps first highlighted risks including asbestos, violence at work, RSI, the effects of passive smoking and stress.
Prevention of workplace injuries and work-related ill-health as a result of this ‘union safety effect’ saves the economy the equivalent of £219m-£725m a year at 2014 prices. The contribution of the union safety role in the public sector alone is £130m-£360m.
However, the TUC believes that the government’s Trade Union Bill may seriously affect health and safety at work, if reps are unable to get the facility time off they need to keep their members safe or if union membership falls.
As a result the TUC in partnership with Hazards has produced new guidance aimed at helping unions attract new members and to encourage existing members to become more involved with health and safety issues.
The TUC advice suggests that health and safety is a good way of recruiting members as concerns about workplace safety are one of the main reasons that people join a trade union.
In addition, many employers are more interested in working with unions on health and safety issues than others, and areas like well-being can provide a good way of involving the workforce and engaging with the employer.
To encourage current union members to be more interested in health and safety issues, the guidance suggests unions can:
• involve members in identifying hazards at work, finding solutions and dealing with problems.
• continue to increase the number of confident, trained health and safety reps, ensuring they are representative of their workplaces.
• deal with problems early, when they are manageable, rather than leaving them to get worse.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Union health and safety reps are unsung heroes, working tirelessly to look after people at work and saving the economy millions.
“Staff who are worried about health and safety issues in their workplace are more likely to consider joining a union to protect themselves. It’s vital unions take the chance to encourage workers to sign up and to become more involved.
“Good employers recognise the importance of working with unions to ensure their shops, offices and factories are safe. It’s a shame the government is putting this good work at risk with its ill-conceived Trade Union Bill.”