Staff Safety Representatives
The Safety Representative
The health and safety legislation makes provision for the appointment of Safety Representatives by employees. It is very important that the position and role of a Safety Representative is not confused with the position of a Safety Officer. The Safety Representative is the elected spokesperson for the staff on issues concerning health, safety and welfare. A Safety Officer is an agent of the management who may be responsible for the implementation of safety procedures within a place of work.
Election of the Safety Representative
It is the view of the ASTI that Safety Representatives should be appointed in all schools. Where this has not yet happened then the school steward should request the management to make arrangements for a meeting of all of the school’s employees at which the Safety Representative may be elected.
The ASTI procedures for the election of representatives on Boards of Management should be adhered to in this process, including the pre-selection of an ASTI nominee for the post at an ASTI pre-meeting. In schools, where members of more than one union are employed, every effort should be made by the union stewards to agree a candidate for the position before the meeting of all employees.
The Safety Representative should be appointed for a term of office of three years and should be removable from office by a majority vote at a meeting of the employees convened for that purpose. It is the view of ASTI that it would be inappropriate for the School Steward to take on the role of Safety Representative in addition to the duties of School Steward.
Function of Safety Representatives
A Safety Representative may consult with, and make representations to, the employer on safety, health and welfare matters relating to the employees in the place of work. The employer must consider these representations, and act on them if necessary. The intention of these consultations is to prevent accidents and ill health, to highlight problems and identify means of overcoming them.
A Safety Representative may investigate accidents and dangerous occurrences in the place of work to find out the causes and help to identify any remedial measures necessary. However, a Safety Representative must not interfere with anything at the scene of an incident.
A Safety Representative is entitled to consult a Health and Safety Inspector either orally or in writing, about any aspect of health, safety and welfare at work. The representative may receive advice and information from the inspector on such matters. The representative should be informed if and when a Health and Safety Inspector arrives to carry out an inspection.
A Safety Representative may carry out inspections in the place of work to identify hazards and risks to safety and health. However, the employer must be notified before such inspections take place. The frequency of inspections depends on various factors, e.g. size and nature of school premises, level of maintenance, nature of specialist rooms. The frequency of inspections must be agreed with the employer. However, no employer may unreasonably withhold agreement.
The duration of the inspection will vary from school to school. However, a complete inspection of a school premises may take a number of hours. The Representative is entitled to time off in order to carry out his/her functions.
Employers have a duty under the act to provide such information and training as is necessary to ensure the safety of all their employees. The Safety Representative has a separate right to information from the employer. This information is over and above that necessary for employees and is such as is necessary to enable the representative to fulfil their functions properly, e.g. technical information about hazards or substances. Representatives should maintain a record of all relevant information.
It is essential that Safety Representatives have the knowledge and skills to perform their functions effectively.
Safety Representatives are protected, under the legislation, against any legal liability which might accrue from their work.
HSA Information Sheet
Section 25 of the 2005 Act entitles employees to decide on, select and appoint a safety representative or, by agreement with their employer, select more than one safety representative. These workers can represent their colleagues in consultations with their employer on matters of safety, health and welfare at their workplace.
Safety representatives, after giving reasonable notice to the employer, have the right to inspect the whole or part of a workplace that they represent at a frequency or on a schedule agreed between them and the employer. These factors should be based on the nature and extent of the hazards. A safety representative also has the right to inspect immediately where an accident or dangerous occurrence has taken place, or where there is an imminent danger or risk to the safety, health and welfare of any person.
Details in relation to the role of a safety representative can be found on the HSA’s information sheet. Click here for HSA information sheet.