Health & Safety
DOES YOUR JOB MAKE YOU SICK?
Recent surveys have shown that a workplace with a strong, active and well organised union, including trained and active union Safety Representatives has half as many accidents as a workplace where management make all the decisions alone.
A safe and healthy workplace is a basic demand of everyone at work and most people will experience dangerous working practices or illness caused by work at some point in their working lives.
Few Health and Safety problems affect only one person most unsafe or un-healthy working practices affect large numbers of people at once and can best be dealt with collectively.
So Health and Safety issues are often at the heart of our Workplace Organisers activities to recruit and organise their colleagues. Safety and the threat of getting ill due to long hours, stress, bullying or because of the chemicals and products our members work on, are all common concerns at work.
People often feel strongly about the issues and want to do something to make their working environment better. Where GMB is seen to be leading campaigns in this area and involving people at work in solving the problems, members are more likely to get involved and other workers are more likely to join us.
GMB will always be ready able and willing to prosecute employers who have caused injury to our members or failed in their responsibilities under Health and Safety Law.
If any member in your workplace has suffered an injury at work in the last three years and wishes the union to examine whether they have a case for compensation, provide them with form TU56, available from your GMB Office or from the GMB website www.gmb.org.uk.
Prevention of accidents, injury and illness before they happen is also our objective. Our 20,000 Workplace Organisers and GMB Safety Representatives in particular, should work with their employers wherever possible to identify and support safe systems of work, assess the risks in every part of the workplace and make their workplace safe and healthy.
There are several steps you and your members can take to make your workplace safer:
1. Identify the risks and hazards to your members' safety and health where you work using your employers current Risk Assessment, your employers Safety Policy or by using the Inspection Checklist on the following pages.
2. Work with your employer to completely remove the hazard if possible.
3. If the hazard can't be removed, work with your employer to reduce it by controlling it at source or by isolation.
4. If this is not possible demand Personal Protective Equipment from your employer for your members (you may need to take advice from your GMB Safety Representative or our safety experts in your Regional Office on PPE rules and regulations before you approach your employer).
The detailed laws that cover Health and Safety at Work can be complicated but there are some basic responsibilities all employers have that every Workplace Organiser needs to know:
1. Every employer is required by law to undertake and act upon a Risk Assessment into their workplaces and work practices.
2. Every employer where GMB is recognised are required by law to issue a copy of their Risk Assessment to GMB Safety Representatives.
3. Every employer where GMB is recognised must set up a Safety Committee where two or more GMB Safety Representatives demand it.
4. Every employer with five or more employees must have a written Health and Safety policy and issue this to all employees.
5. Every employer should record all accidents or incidents in an accident book and report this to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The best way to ensure your employer acts to solve a health and safety problem is for GMB members to act together, submit a collective complaint and demand a meeting with management to agree a solution.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Councils are responsible for enforcing the law in the last resort. However GMB members at work cannot control how long the HSE might take to respond to your complaint, visit your workplace and produce a report.
If you plan to report your employer to the HSE, make sure you have first organised your members to submit their collective grievance to your employer and held meetings to build your campaign.
If you believe you and your colleagues are in serious and imminent danger at work, you have the right to stop work and remove yourself from the situation. Your union will support you in taking this action and in representing you in the inevitable enquiry that will follow.
If you and your colleagues can see a situation developing at work that is likely to place you at serious risk in the future if not dealt with you have the right as a GMB Workplace Organiser to formally demand urgent action from your employer, which must include management taking immediate steps to protect you from the danger you have identified.
In these circumstances contact your GMB Safety Representative, Senior GMB Representative, GMB Branch Secretary or GMB Officer as soon as you practically can.
GMB SAFETY REPRESENTATIVES
GMB encourages all its Workplace Organisers to get involved in making their workplace safer and healthier. In workplaces where we are recognised by the employer, our policy is to have a team of trained and elected GMB Safety Representatives to make sure we are as effective as we can be.
GMB Safety Reps:
- Campaign for a safer and more healthy working environment.
- Involve GMB members in tackling Health and Safety problems.
- Get paid time off to do their work and get professional training.
- Conduct inspections at work to identify problems.
- Report and represent problems to management.
- Investigate accidents at work.
- Apply GMB's Health and Safety policy at their workplace.
- Have the right to be consulted and informed by the employer.
- Sit on Safety Committees on behalf of GMB members and report back.
Find out the Safety Representative who covers your work area. If there isn't one, consider becoming a Safety Representative yourself. You can get more information from GMB's Safety Representatives tool kit available from your Regional Office.
If you are not an appointed GMB Safety Rep or your employer has no recognition agreement with the GMB, you do not have a legal right to time off work to conduct a workplace inspection.
However regular workplace inspections are an important part of creating a safe and healthy workplace and are a useful part of GMB's campaigning and organising work. If you are not a GMB Safety Rep:
1. Check who the GMB Safety Representative covering your workplace is.
2. Ask them to conduct an inspection and report back to you and GMB members.
3. If there is no GMB Safety Representative, consider volunteering for the role.
4. Advise your employer that you believe an inspection needs to take place.
5. Ask your employer for time off to conduct an inspection.
6. If you are refused, contact your GMB officer and register a collective grievance.
7. If it is agreed, do the inspection using the checklist provided, discuss the findings with your members and then the employer.
This checklist is designed to help you carry out workplace inspections. Its aim is to help you cover some of the most important areas and consider what improvements need to be made. Some of the questions may not apply to your particular workplace and some new ones may need to be added.
The best checklists are those developed by Workplace Organisers and Safety Reps using their knowledge and experience of their workplace. Use this checklist as a basis for developing one of your own, amending it where necessary to suit your needs.
The checklist will not solve your problems, but it is a tool for identifying the priority areas for improvements. Carry out regular inspections and use your checklist each time you do so. Check the accident book before you start an inspection to find out details of any accidents which may have occurred.
When you are on your rounds, communicate with your members. Listen to what they have to say and take note of their suggestions for improvements. Conducting short surveys amongst your membership can also provide useful information on their common problems and concerns.
Copy your findings to your GMB Officer.
HOW TO USE THIS CHECKLIST
1. Photocopy this check list to use as the basis for your own customised version. Add items which are relevant to your particular workplace on additional sheets of paper, based upon the question list attached. You will need to develop your own questions for these areas. The question list covers a number of basic areas only, although many of them will apply to most workplaces.
Drawing up your own customised version will allow you to ask the questions which you want to about health and safety in your workplace. This way you will have a checklist which suits your needs. You do not have to cover all the areas listed, so ignore anything on the checklist which doesn't apply.
2. Decide which works areas are to be inspected. If you work in a small establishment it may be appropriate to check the whole area. In the case of a larger establishment, particular workplaces or sections can be inspected separately.
3. As you inspect, work through the questions on your checklist and decide which measures need to be taken according to the following procedure:
- If action is not needed (ie improvements have already been carried out or the inspection has found the area to be safe) tick the no action column opposite the relevant question.
- If improvements are needed tick the action column. The action column should also be ticked if measures have already been taken but further action is necessary.
- If urgent action is necessary tick the urgent action column.
- In the comments section, write your notes on the action which needs to be taken. You may need extra paper to take notes whilst carrying out your inspection.
4. After the inspection, ensure that management is informed of the problems and take appropriate action to resolve them. Always make your reports in writing using your GMB Safety Representatives Report Forms. See sections six and seven of GMB's Safety Reps Handbook for more information on action after the inspection and resolving problems.
Keep a record of the date, the area (s) inspected and a copy of the checklist for your records. Use your copy to check that management have taken the appropriate action.