An Issue for Everyone

In a recent survey most UNISON members identified health and safety as the most important workplace issue for them.

As the largest public service union UNISON is at the forefront of campaigns on issues such as stress at work and violence in the workplace. Many of our members are also at risk from problems such as:
· RSI from keyboarding
· Back pain from lifting and carrying people and heavy loads
· Insufficient training and equipment

Workplace Health and Safety Reps
To be effective in our fight for safe working conditions we need people in every work place to act as advisors and watchdogs on health and safety issues. We currently have H&S reps in around 30 workplaces, but we need more.

You'll get full training and support from UNISON as well as paid time off from your employer to carry out your union role. Find out more about becoming a health and safety rep on our H&S reps page.

Branch health and safety officers
Every year each branch elects a branch health and safety officer. Currently Ben King is Northants County H&S Officer. You can contact Ben on any H&S issue at his workplace number 01604 670400 or email

Why are health and safety reps important?
UNISON members believe health and safety is the most important issue at work. Health and safety can be a matter of life and death.
Many of our members know what it's like to experience stress, violence or accidents and injuries at work.
Tackling health and safety is also a very good way of organising in the workplace.

What do health and safety reps do?
Everybody who works has basic rights, which include things like sufficient space to work in, clean and well-lit workplaces and safe working practices.
Health and safety reps work to make the workplace as safe as possible. They can:
· Make representations to the employer on behalf of members on any health, safety and welfare matter
· Represent members in consultation with Health and Safety Executive inspectors or other enforcing authorities
· Inspect designated workplace areas at least every three months
· Investigate any potential hazards, complaints by members and causes of accidents, dangerous occurrences and diseases
Employers are obliged by law to carry out risk assessments which identify dangers in the workplace and look at how likely they are to cause harm. Health and safety reps can help make sure this happens.

What rights do health and safety reps have?
Health and safety reps have important legal rights, including the right to:
· Paid time off to carry out the role and undergo either TUC or union-approved training
· Raise issues with the employer that affect the health and safety of members
· Facilities and support from the employer to carry out inspections
· To receive legal and technical information from the employer.

How do I become a health and safety rep?
Like stewards, safety reps are chosen by union members. They are not appointed by the employer.
Your UNISON branch will decide on the arrangements. Once a safety rep is appointed, the employer must be notified in writing of that appointment.

Where do I go for advice and support?
Your branch is always the first place to go. Most branches will make sure that health and safety reps have details of local union officers who will give prompt advice and guidance. Guidance is also available from regional offices via your branch secretary.

Do I get any training?
UNISON provides special introductory and follow up courses for health and safety reps. You are entitled to paid time off to attend this training. Contact the branch office to find out when and where the next training course will be held.

Where can I find useful information and resources?
· Go to for loads of H&S information on the latest issues.
· UNISON's employment advice website offers useful health and safety information for ordinary members.

How many health and safety reps are needed?
UNISON aims to have at least one health and safety rep in every workplace where we have members. In some cases the safety rep and steward are the same person but they have two separate roles. We need you to achieve this goal!

How can I get more involved in UNISON health and safety?
Contact your branch H&S officer Ben King at or the UNISON office if you are interested in becoming a workplace health and safety rep.

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