All UK employers have a legal duty to consult their employees (and/or employee representatives) on matters affecting employees’ health and safety at work.
This means giving employees information about the health and safety hazards they may face and listening to and taking account of their concerns and ideas before making any decisions about the best ways of protecting them.
However, involving workers in managing health and safety brings benefits for employers, as research has shown workplaces where staff are involved in taking decisions about health and safety are safer and healthier.
This guide from the British Safety Council provides an overview of employers’ legal duties in this area.
According to the HSE, consulting and involving employees in health and safety can therefore help employers to make better decisions about risk management, because they are based on the input and experience of a range of workers who understand the hazards and the potential for problems and dangerous short-cuts. If employees are actively involved in drawing up and deciding on the health and safety procedures, they are more likely to understand the need for them and be committed to following them.
Consulting on COVID-19 precautions
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important it is for employers and employees to work together to draw up, implement and follow all reasonably practicable measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work and in all premises.
According to the guide, employers must assess the risks from COVID-19 and take all reasonable steps to protect workers and others from the virus – for example, when re-opening workplaces. Therefore, employers must consult their workers and safety representatives when assessing the risks and on the measures they propose to take to protect workers and others from infection.
The guide is available here.
British Safety Council October 2021