Today, every large or even medium sized business that has something to do with manufacturing requires the services of a health and safety representative. This representative is usually someone who is already part of the workforce but whom has the required training to ensure that health and safety standards have been properly met at the workplace. He or she will also be responsible for identifying hazards and potential issues with worker safety in order to prevent workplace accidents. That said there are a number of other responsibilities of a representative which often go either unnoticed or perhaps the representative does not know that it’s their job. Below we look at what tasks you’ll need to perform as a representative.
Investigating workplace Accidents and Illnesses
There are many health and safety representatives that simply jump to the conclusion that any and all injuries at the workplace are a result of user error. So, workers are often blamed for their injuries, many times the safety programs are designed to simply blame victims in the event things go wrong which happens to be the wrong approach. The job of a health and safety representative is to use ‘Root Cause Analysis’ to look into the events leading up to the incident and point out potential factors that caused the problem in the first place regardless of whose fault it is.
The report should then be sent to the union-appointed representative who will deal with management via a joint committee. Health and safety reps will also need to deal directly with management if a serious issue is not being addressed. However, it is not the job of a representative to help union members with compensation claims but rather lay out the facts. There is a thin line between working for management or for the worker’s union that representatives walk but keeping the facts straight and investigating every accident is their job.
The Refusal to Work in an Unsafe Environment
Health and safety representatives are often tasked by management to ask people to work in often dangerous environments without the right safety measures in place. Even though it’s the worker’s decision a representative needs to advice the worker as to the risks involved with working in this environment. Some workers may decide to inform the supervisor in the event of danger asking him or her to fix the problem before they work. If both the supervisor and the worker do not agree on a solution the representative needs to find a good solution to the problem. This is despite the fact that management may be pressuring the representative to get work going. If a representative cannot solve the problem then a government inspector will need to be called in. Regardless of the pressure a representative cannot deny a worker’s decision not to work or call in a government inspector, doing so will be breaking the law in many countries.
Notify Employers of Accidents Immediately
A worker who has been injured working needs to notify the employer or the health and safety rep immediately about the injury prior to leaving the worksite. If the representative was informed this representative then needs to follow through the required protocol to establish what happened in light of the victim’s testimony prior to brining the accident to the notice of the employer or management. The representative will also be responsible for assisting the worker with recording names, speaking with witnesses and documenting the injury. This will help the representative form a conclusion as to whose fault caused the injury i.e. was it improper safety measures? Worker incompetence? Or external intervention? According to Alerforce there are some industries where the health and safety representative is responsible for arranging first aid and calling in an ambulance. That said the representative will also need to keep accurate records of every accident or safety issue and not rely solely on the employer to keep records. So, copies need to be made of every step which was taken along the way.
The best way to ensure that you do your job correctly is to get professional health and safety representative training. The training will detail how to go about documenting, reporting and navigating through common issues faced by representatives and workers.
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Mark has been a health and safety representative for the past fifteen years. He specializes in documenting and reporting common workplace issues. In addition, he also teaches people who aspire to be representatives or those who have been elected to become representatives via his website. His most effective tip for representatives is to be unbiased with their approach.