Your employer has a duty to consult all staff about health and safety issues in the workplace. They do this by either talking direct to employees or to a safety representative acting on behalf of the employees.
If your employer recognises a trade union in respect of employees doing your job and the union has appointed a safety representative (SR), your employer must consult the SR. If there is no recognised union, your employer must either consult you direct or, if a representative of employee safety (ROES) has been elected, consult directly with you or the ROES.
Your SR will give you confidential help and advice. They can help you solve problems and they have legal duties, including:
An ROES has less legal authority than that of an SR. Their duties include:
Your employer has a legal duty to:
They must take account of these views when making a decision.
Your employer must consult on:
If your employer doesn't consult as the law requires, they're committing an offence.
How do you become a safety representative?
If your trade union is recognised and you want to become an SR, speak to your branch secretary about how to get yourself elected or appointed to represent the workforce. You'll normally need two years' experience of working in your job or in similar work.
As an SR, you have the right to:
An ROES has to be elected by the workforce. As an ROES, your employer is required to provide you with and pay for relevant training in health and safety matters. If the training is during your normal working hours, you have the right to time off with pay.
If you are penalised for reporting something to your health and safety representative
Under the law you're protected as a safety 'whistleblower' if there has been:
If you want to talk about a health and safety matter at work, find out who your safety representative is. Contact your trade union representative or local branch secretary if you're a member of a union. Otherwise, ask your line manager.
If you're already a safety representative, make sure you're adequately trained. If your employer refuses to give you time off for training, or doesn't pay you for time taken off, you can take them to an employment tribunal (or industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland).
If your employer doesn't follow the regulations on health and safety consultation, you should follow the grievance procedure set out in your contract of employment.
For any advice on health and safety at work, consult the(or ) or call the HSE's or HSENI's Infoline which provide rapid and confidential access to health and safety information, expert advice and guidance.