If you want to help keep your colleagues safe at work and to improve workplace safety - then become a RMT Safety Representative.
RMT safety reps tell us they enjoy their role as it brings with it interests that don’t always exist in their day-to-day employment, such as responsibility, interest, reward, satisfaction and transferable skills that could assist in their future career.
If you are thinking about becoming a safety rep it is important to know that:
- Safety reps are independent of the employer and appointed by the union
- Trade union safety representatives are not accountable to employers or managers, only to RMT members and are distinct from “health and safety managers” or “safety officers” appointed by employers to help them carry out their health and safety responsibilities
- You do not need to be a health and safety expert or have a legal mind to be a good safety rep - you just need common sense, a knowledge of the workplace, be prepared to ask questions, participate in discussions about health and safety and have the confidence to put forward suggestions for improvements or resolutions to workplace problems
- Trade Union appointed safety representatives do not have any legal duties or responsibilities for health and safety beyond those which apply to all employees. For example, safety reps will not be legally responsible if they carry out an inspection and fail to notice a particular hazard. Such duties and responsibilities rest with the employer and anyone they appoint for this purpose
- Employers must consult with safety reps on the introduction of any measures at the workplace which will affect the h&s of the employees the rep represents
- If you decide to become a safety rep, you will not alone; we currently have nearly 2,000 safety reps representing 80,000 members across the country.
The role of the safety rep
The function of the safety rep is to raise with management any matters of health, safety or welfare at work, which concern those they represent. This could be at safety committee meetings or by writing.
Safety reps are entitled to carry out workplace inspections, both of the workplace and of documents that relate to the health, safety and welfare of those they represent, such as risk assessments, accident statistics, safety manuals, hazard data sheets or technical literature relating to the particular activity in the workplace.
RMT provides new safety reps with help and support in carrying out their role and training for new safety reps. These courses are held on a regular basis and are residential, although online and regional training is also available.
Paid time off to carry out your safety rep role
Safety reps are entitled to time away from normal duties without loss of pay, to attend any agreed training course or undertake any of the functions of a safety rep including preparation for any meetings, writing of reports or letters, or the gathering of information/background material relating to a particular hazard found at the workplace.
Support for RMT safety reps
Given the nature of the work done by RMT members, the role of RMT Health and Safety Rep is a vital one in our union. This is why we provide specially tailored training for our safety reps, a wide range of resources for our safety reps: https://www.rmt.org.uk/about/health-and-safety/health-and-safety-resources-for-reps/ and also the annual RMT Health and Safety Advisory Conference, which sees the highest attendance of RMT annual conferences and is an opportunity for safety reps to undertake training and hear h&s specialists speak on a variety of safety issues.
Safety reps are very important people in the workplace; they have more legislation on their side than any other rep and their importance was particularly shown during the Covid pandemic when there was an army of safety reps out their battling away on members’ behalf. The safety legislation gives safety reps the legal right to represent members’ interests on health and safety issues - and gives reps a range of rights and powers to assist in achieving this.
RMT aims to have a safety rep in each grade in every workplace, so that members have access to their safety rep when they need to discuss a h&s matter – and so that these reps can help raise the profile of the RMT in their workplace. We continue to develop arrangements for our safety reps to ensure they have the knowledge and support needed to carry out their role.
What to do now
If you want to become a safety rep then you need to contact your branch secretary/attend your branch meeting. Safety reps are elected at RMT branch meetings, therefore please contact your branch secretary to find out if there are any safety rep vacancies in your branch area.
Don’t give up if there are not any vacancies; contact email@example.com as it may be possible - both with the agreement of your branch and your employer - to make arrangements for you to shadow an existing rep until a vacancy arises.
If you want any more information on becoming a safety rep contact RMT’s health and safety section firstname.lastname@example.org.