#IWMD17 - Health and Safety is vital

This Friday 28th April, representatives from UNISON, Unite The Union, GMB, Trades Union Council (TUSC) and the Labour party will be holding an International Workers' Memorial Day service at the bench in the north-east corner of East park. 

Observers are invited to gather from 11:00, with speeches and a minute’s silence occurring from 12 noon. Please bring banners and flags. 




International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) on 28th April is our day to remember the dead and fight for the living.

Up to 50,000 people die each year in the UK from work-related ill health and accidents. Although few UNISON members die in workplace incidents, many suffer injuries and work-related ill health.

Many UNISON activists take up the vital role of health and safety reps, protecting us from injury in the workplace. They regularly monitor our offices and place pressure on management to make changes where they are needed. If you have reasonable adjustments that need to be made for an existing condition, your health and safety rep can help you have them put in place, and if your employer is on the wrong side of the law, their knowledge of legislation can put them right.

It’s fair to say that in recent years, health and safety (and especially the legislation enforcing it) has received a bit of flack. Laws and procedures that exist because no one should sustain injury, or in worst cases, die because of work, are lambasted as nanny-state meddling. Myths have abounded about children being banned from throwing snowballs and a halt to the hanging of Christmas decorations.

Luckily the Health and Safety Executive are here to bust those myths on their website.

What does a Health and Safety Rep do?

Barry Olson is an HMO warden in Southampton City Council, and has been a health and safety rep for 25 years. His work means his is away from the office for most of the week, but he still finds time to make sure it is in a fit state for his colleagues.

Barry works in an office-based environment, and identifies the current trend of hot desking as a source of concern:

“With high workloads and hot desking, and the moving of departments that play a role in health and safety to other locations, there can be a lack of ownership or staff don’t know who to report issues to. It’s important that tripping hazards and broken furniture are removed. Setting up mobile work stations and mobile tech correctly is also important to prevent repetitive strain issues.”

“The most common complaints I deal with are stress and workload, IT issues, and office temperature.”

It’s interesting to note that while there is a legal regulation on the minimum office temperature, there is no legal maximum, which can cause a desperately uncomfortable, and in some cases dangerous environment for staff – especially those with conditions that require reasonable adjustments.

UNISON are currently raising that health and safety as an equalities issue, and Barry notes that he still has to remind management that risk assessments must be performed for pregnant staff.

When asked what union members can do to help keep their office safe, Barry says to be vigilant and “…consistently raise issues in the workplace with management (via your rep) to secure improvements.”

International Workers’ Memorial Day is Friday 28th April. For a list of events nationwide check the TUC page here.


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  • published this page in Branch News 2017-05-25 09:46:03 +0100

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