Health & Safety News

H&S | 09.01.2020


The following is an overview of the legal requirements employers must abide by to comply with legislation in respect of risk assessments, safe systems of work and Health and Safety Committees.

The NEC would remind Health and Safety Representatives to ensure any risk assessment produced to protect our members from violence (physical, verbal or intimidation) must take into account the evidence from the violence diagnostic tool (HMPPS England and Wales including the Private Sector only).

Health and Safety Risk Assessments, Safe Systems of Work and Health and Safety Representatives Functions

Employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to ensure so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to assess risks. They must make sure they know about the main risks in your workplace and the things they need to do to manage them responsibly.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require the employer to put in place arrangements to control health and safety risks. As a minimum, they should have the processes and procedures required to meet the legal requirements, including:

  • a written health and safety policy;
  • assessments of the risks to employees, contractors, customers, partners, and any other people who could be affected by their activities - and record the significant findings in writing. Any risk assessment must be 'suitable and sufficient';
  • arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures that come from risk assessment;
  • providing employees with information about the risks in your workplace and how they are protected;
  • instruction and training for employees on how to deal with the risks;

A risk assessment must be suitable and sufficient, i.e. it should show that:

  • a proper check was made;
  • the employer asked who might be affected;
  • they dealt with all the obvious significant hazards, taking into account the number of people who could be involved;
  • the precautions are reasonable, and the remaining risk is low;
  • they involved their employees or their representatives in the process.
  • The employer needs to do everything 'reasonably practicable' to protect people from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. However, they do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.

The risk assessment should only include what the employer could reasonably be expected to know, they are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.

They should, after doing the risk assessment, look at what they are already doing and the control measures they already have in place.

  • Can they get rid of the hazard altogether?
  • If not, how can they control the risks so that harm is unlikely?

Some steps they could take include:

  • trying a less risky option;
  • preventing access to the hazards;
  • organising your work to reduce exposure to the hazard;
  • issuing protective equipment;
  • providing welfare facilities such as first aid and washing facilities;
  • involving and consulting with workers

POA Health and Safety Representatives

In addition to their function under section 2(4) of the 1974 Act to represent the employees in consultations with the employer under section 2(6) of the 1974 Act (which requires every employer to consult safety representatives with a view to the making and maintenance of arrangements which will enable him and his employees to cooperate effectively in promoting and developing measures to ensure the health and safety at work of the employees and in checking the effectiveness of such measures), each safety representative shall have the following functions —

a) to investigate potential hazards and dangerous occurrences at the workplace whether or not they are drawn to his/her attention by the employees he represents and to examine the causes of accidents at the workplace;
b) to investigate complaints by any employee he represents relating to that employee's health, safety or welfare at work;
c) to make representations to the employer on matters arising out of subparagraphs (a) and (b) above;
d) to make representations to the employer on general matters affecting the health, safety or welfare at work of the employees at the workplace;
e) to carry out inspections in accordance with Regulations 5, 6 and 7;
f) to represent the employees, he was appointed to represent in consultations at the workplace with inspectors of the Health and Safety Executive and of any other enforcing authority;
g) to receive information from inspectors in accordance with section 28(8) of the 1974 Act; and
h) to attend meetings of safety committees where he attends in his capacity as a safety representative in connection with any of the above functions; but, without prejudice to sections 7 and 8 of the 1974 Act, no function given to a safety representative by this paragraph shall be construed as imposing any duty on him.

An employer shall permit a safety representative to take such time off with pay during the employee's working hours as shall be necessary for the purposes of —

a) performing his functions under section 2(4) of the 1974 Act and paragraph (1) (a) to (h) above;
b) undergoing such training in aspects of those functions as may be reasonable in all the circumstances having regard to any relevant provisions of a code of practice relating to time off for training approved for the time being by the Health and Safety Commission under section 16 of the 1974 Act.

Employer's duty to consult and provide facilities and assistance Regulation 4a

Without prejudice to the generality of section 2(6) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, every employer shall consult safety representatives in good time with regard to -

a) the introduction of any measure at the workplace which may substantially affect the health and safety of the employees the safety representatives concerned represent;
b) his arrangements for appointing or, as the case may be, nominating persons in accordance with regulations 6(1) and 7(1)(b) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992;(b)
c) any health and safety information he is required to provide to the employees the safety representatives concerned represent by or under the relevant statutory provisions;
d) the planning and organisation of any health and safety training he is required to provide to the employees the safety representatives concerned represent by or under the relevant statutory provisions; and
e) the health and safety consequences for the employees the safety representatives concerned represent of the introduction (including the planning thereof) of new technologies into the workplace.

Without prejudice to regulations 5 and 6 of these Regulations, every employer shall provide such facilities and assistance as safety representatives may reasonably require for the purpose of carrying out their functions under section 2(4) of the 1974 Act and under SRSC Regulations 1977.

In accordance with the agreement, members of the NEC, Full Time Officers, Scottish National Committee and Northern Ireland Area Committee will be available to assist branches in progressing this vital work to ensure the risk assessments and SSoW are suitable and sufficient, within a reasonable time frame with facility time being provided by local management.

In respect of staff to prisoner ratios, only Operational staff should be taken into account when conducting risk assessments and safe systems of work. It is not acceptable for Civilian workers to be used as a response to operational requirements.

Please draw the contents of this circular to the attention of Health and Safety Reps and local Committees.

Yours sincerely



Deputy General Secretary