Fear that safety advice will be left in poor health

The government’s Trade Union Bill could put lives at risk by robbing union safety reps of the rights and time to perform their role, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady says.

She told the hazards.org website that the ‘biggest factor’ behind Britain’s occupational health success was unions.

“The stand-out reason Britain is relatively safer than many other countries is that we have more trade union health and safety representatives active in the workplace than almost any other European country.

“Workplaces with trade union health and safety representatives and safety committees had half the serious injury rate of those without.”

She said these standards were now at risk in the public sector as new legislation sought to shorten the time given to workplace representatives to uphold the interests of members and undertake union duties. She added the Bill would also allow ministers to restrict the rights to time off given to union health and safety reps.

“Any reasonable employer welcomes the presence of health and safety representatives, including most in the public sector. This is why this move makes absolutely no sense from a regulatory point of view.

“It will not save money or remove bureaucracy, nor will it improve safety.

“Anything that prevents us acting on behalf of those that need us will undermine health and safety in the workplace and that must not be allowed to happen.”

Lara Murray, an employment law specialist at Palmers, said: “Health and Safety legislation can be complex, even more so in the face of changing legislation. It means employers trying to understand their commitment to compliance find things doubly difficult. This is where the experts come in. At Palmers we are experienced in advising employers as to their duties and requirements. For more information about what we do, please contact us.”