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The role of a safety rep

In brief, as a CSP safety rep you have two main roles:

  1. to advise and represent paid-up members of the society on all matters relating to their health, safety and welfare at work
  2. to make sure your employer fulfils their legal obligations towards their employees, and to assist members in getting their health and safety problems resolved.

Find out what's expected of you in more detail on this page if you are thinking of becoming a safety rep yourself.

What to expect

File 220553Safety reps need to understand aspects of health and safety law, become familiar with employer and employee legal duties, the role of safety committees and safety policies. They also need to understand inspections, accidents, the general work environment, specific hazards, manual handling and how to get organised.

The CSP values its safety reps. We recognise that you are volunteers with other commitments and we offer advice and support to you in your role as safety rep. To help you undertake your duties as a safety rep to maximum effect, the CSP provides specific training and other resources. You are encouraged to make full use of them.

As a CSP safety rep you play a major role in ensuring the CSP has a strong voice and high profile at local level. And as the local face of the society, you are also our members' link with the CSP's regional and national structures.

Be part of the team

As a safety rep you are part of a team that also comprises regional safety reps, the national group of regional safety reps, CSP stewards and the stewards' national group, the Industrial Relations Committee and Employment Relations & Union Services (ERUS).

The CSP's national health & safety officer and your own senior negotiating officer (SNO) are available to help you with any particularly difficult problems and for general advice. ERUS also organises training to enable you to develop your role as a safety rep.

Safety representatives' network

The national network of CSP safety reps is a vital part of the society as a trade union. Your participation in the network is key to its effectiveness. Local safety reps meet each other twice a year and there should be one or two regional safety representatives in your region who organise meetings and training days: they will contact you with details.

Regional safety representatives

Regional safety reps are elected by other safety reps in the region and take on the coordinating role for all reps in that area. They also ensure the CSP can quickly disseminate information and receive feedback on various health and safety issues. Regional safety reps also have a key role in helping develop the Employment Relations & Union Services' health and safety strategy. See more about the rights and responsibilities of regional safety reps.

Main functions of a safety rep

The main functions of safety representatives are laid down in the Safety Reps and Safety Committees Regulations (SRSC): see the TUC 'brown book' for further information. In short though, the functions are to:

  • examine the causes of accidents in the workplace
  • investigate potential hazards and dangerous occurrences in the workplace
  • investigate complaints by employees relating to their health, safety and welfare
  • make representations to the employer on matters affecting the health, safety and welfare of employees
  • carry out inspections of members' workplaces
  • be consulted by the employer on health and safety matters
  • represent employees in consultations with health and safety inspectors
  • receive information from inspectors
  • attend safety committee meetings – employers are required to establish safety committees if two or more safety representatives request this in writing

Representing members

As a CSP safety rep one of your roles is to represent members who have a health & safety problem or concern. This could range from a member suffering from the effects of stress or a work-related musculoskeletal disorder. Or equally, a lack of action by management over addressing the problem of violence or aggression from service users.

Extra advice and support is always available when dealing with a more complex case, or where you are inexperienced in representation: you can consult with more experienced safety rep colleagues, your regional safety rep, your senior negotiating officer or other ERUS staff.

Attending meetings

The main forum in which you will be the voice of your members is your trust/employer's health and safety committee. Be aware that the committee is not the place to raise issues concerning safety of patients or visitors: such matters should be taken by staff through the designated line management structure, not through you as a safety rep. The role of the safety representative relates to members' safety only, although improving one often improves the other. Your responsibility is to represent your members' views and opinions, and then to report decisions back to them.

Inspections

One of the most important jobs undertaken by safety reps is carrying out inspections of the areas where members work. Inspections should be carried out regularly, and safety reps have a legal right to do them at least every three months. Inspections involve observing work areas and activities, talking to members, and taking up issues with management afterwards. For more information download our member guidance: Health & Safety Inspection Checklist.

Investigations

Safety reps can investigate potential hazards, dangerous occurrences, causes of accidents and occupational ill-health and complaints from members regarding health and safety matters.

Making representations to management

Safety reps are entitled by law to make representations to management once they have investigated unsafe conditions or hazards. This includes:

  • making representations to the employer about potential hazards concerning members' complaints: see our guidance on negotiating with management for useful tips on how to approach your manager
  • bringing to the notice of the employer your findings or complaints after inspections. It is usually a good idea that this be done either in a report or a letter. A report template can be found in our Health & Safety Inspection Checklist
  • representing members in workplace consultations with HSE inspectors.

Recruiting members

As a CSP safety rep you only represent current paid-up members of the society. This means you will need to know which of your physio staff colleagues are CSP members and those who aren't. And where physiotherapy colleagues are not members, or members of another union, it's your job to get them to join.

The strength of the CSP, both as a professional body and trade union, is in its membership: the more members we have, the stronger we are. Maximising membership brings increased professional influence and a stronger bargaining position when negotiating with management. The increased income also helps to ensure the CSP can continue to deliver first class member services. And your job as a safety rep will be much easier if you are speaking on behalf of everyone in your workplace.

More in-depth information on the safety rep's role in recruiting can be found in our recruiting members guidance.

Communicate – with members, the CSP and each other

As a safety rep you are a vital link in the CSP's communications chain: by passing on information to your members, reporting back to the CSP, and sharing learning with your fellow safety reps. You can expect to receive lots of useful information from the CSP, not least information papers on a wide range of health and safety issues. The regular safety reps' training days are also a valuable source of information concerning national and local developments.

You will need to keep your members informed of what's happening in your workplace, as well as developments from the CSP and wider world that affect them. You will also need to obtain information from your members to help guide you in your work: make sure you involve them in what you are doing.

Available to all safety reps is an in-service training resource for you to educate members about your role and raise their awareness about health and safety matters in their workplace. This resource is available to you when you register on the iCSP national safety reps network. The in-service resource pack includes four activities and a PowerPoint presentation, and can be easily located on the network's homepage.

Follow our top tips for ensuring you keep up with your communications responsibilities:

  • develop a filing system for all the material/information you will receive as a CSP safety rep and for all your casework records (you should be entitled to lockable storage under your facilities agreement)
  • let your members know what is happening - use noticeboards, hold regular members' meetings to find out members' views, email and talk informally to your members
  • register on iCSP and access the national and regional safety reps' networks regularly
  • check this website regularly for news and relevant developments
  • publicise your successes. If you have negotiated something worthwhile or represented a member successfully, share your tips and experience with other safety reps via iCSP
  • talk to us: always keep your senior negotiating officer informed of major developments in your workplace/trust and of any problems you encounter. It is much easier for SNOs to achieve a good result in the early stages of a problem rather than being called on to help when a problem has escalated. Remember that SNOs and other ERUS staff are there to help, so please contact them for advice and assistance if you have any worries or concerns.

How to resign as a rep

If you decide to move on and resign your role as a safety rep you should organise the election of a replacement. Inform your senior negotiating officer and regional safety rep of your decision and let your members know that you are stepping down.

It is important that you complete the resignation form available on iCSP's national safety reps network. It would be very helpful if you could meet with your successor to brief them on local issues, hand over files and documents and give some general advice.

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