Saturday, 6 July 2013

Consultation with Employees

Staff consultation is not always the first priority within many workplaces and all too often you hear the same old phrase “I didn’t know, I wasn’t told”. Consulting employees on health and safety matters is very important when creating and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment, as staff can help identify hazards, assess risks and help develop ways to control or remove them. This action can in turn help businesses become more efficient and reduce the number of accidents and work related illness. By law, employers must consult all their employees on health and safety matters, and this includes any workers who are self-employed, for tax purposes.

Legislation sets out how employees should be consulted in different circumstances as well as the different choices that employers have to make. There are two different sets of regulations relating to consultation: -
  • The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977.
  • The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996
Where an organisation recognises trade unions within any part of the business then the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations will apply, whereas the Health & Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 will apply and will place a legal duty on all organisations to discuss health and safety matters with employees who are not represented by a trade body.

The consultation process entails not only providing information to employees but also to listen to and take account of what they say before making any health and safety decisions for example: -
  • When informing members of the likely risks associated with work that is being undertaken along with the means of controlling the risk.
  • When making decisions involving work equipment, processes or organisations.
  • When planning any health and safety training.
  • When making arrangements for getting competent people to help the organisation comply with health and safety laws.
  • When introducing new health and safety related technology.

Where necessary, employees or their representatives should be given adequate time to read and understand the information they are given and a chance to express their views.

Evidence often shows that union based organisations often have higher levels of health and safety performance due to their empowered role, however, these days, many businesses are not covered by trade union safety representatives and it is therefore down to the employer to decide on what is the best medium to consult members of staff. For example employers can liaise with staff directly or through designated representatives.

In order to ensure that the nominated members of staff can perform their duties effectively, it will be important to provide suitable and sufficient training. These courses should be provided at the employer’s cost and may require the individuals to attend the appropriate courses during working hours.

In order to ensure that the consultation process is effective it is important to provide your employees or their representatives with enough information to enable them to undertake a useful and valuable role within the health and safety process. Employers do not have to provide information which they are not aware of or information: -
  • That would not be in the interest of security or against the law.
  • About an individual who has not given their permission for it to be passed on.
  • That may be detrimental to the business.
  • That has been received in connection with any legal proceedings.

These regulations are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive who will often ask about, and monitor the activities regarding consultation with employees when they visit individual premises. If the inspecting officer is not satisfied that consultation is being addressed correctly or that adequate provisions are not being provided then they may issue an improvement notice to the organisation which could cost the organisation a considerable amount of money due to the recent introduction of the Fees for Intervention (FFI).

Where there are disagreements about the consultation process, organisations should firstly try to resolve them internally using the normal in house procedures. However, if all else fails advice can be sourced through ACAS (The Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service) or the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) in Northern Ireland.

In conclusion, to ensure that your organisation is complying with the regulations it is important to consult with employees about health and safety matters.

Firstly, notify all members of staff that the company wishes to proactively involve all members of staff in safety consultations. If employees wish to nominate representatives the organisation should implement regular safety meetings to discuss any issue.
On occasions, staff members may not initially be interested in the process and will not volunteer for the task. Therefore the organisation should address this by implementing regular safety meetings where nominated members of staff are invited, and by posting minutes of the meetings on staff notice boards. At the meetings, the management should review all current health and safety processes and the documentation that is in place. Quite often when we visit organisations it is stated that the company does not have time to review risk assessments, but by having set meetings it gives the management the opportunity to address this issue as well as getting the opinions of individuals who actively undertake the tasks. In effect killing two birds with one stone.

If you do not opt for regular safety meetings, it is important to demonstrate that there is a consultation process available for staff to comment on safety issues. This may be by simply providing a hazard detection process for employees, so that they can inform management of any hazards that they discover as they undertake their work. Ideally this should consist of a written record to prove to an enforcing officer that there is a procedure in place.

Every business is unique therefore; no single model can be applied to worker involvement.

Therefore, if you currently do not have any consultation procedures in place you will need to be flexible and think about how and what is required to ensure that your business does not fall foul of health and safety legislation.

For more than a decade we have been helping businesses achieve health and safety compliance. Citation offers a fixed price health and safety and employment law consultancy service in order to help our clients comply with legislation. 

For More information call 0845 844 1111 or visit

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