A Safety Representative is an employee elected by their fellow employees, whose main role is to represent them to management on all health and safety issues.
Section 25 of Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 outlines the rights and role of a Safety Representative:
Role of Safety Representative
- To carry out inspections on notice to the employer after accidents, dangerous occurrences, or imminent danger situations.
- To investigate accidents and dangerous occurrences (as long as they do not obstruct anyone else performing a statutory obligation)
- To investigate complaints made by employees
- To accompany Inspector on inspections – but not accident investigations
- To accompany Inspector on an accident investigation, only if the inspector agrees
- To accompany Inspector when interviewing employees re accidents if the employees request it and Inspector agrees
- To make representations to employer
- To make oral or written representations to an Inspector
- To receive advice and information from an Inspector
- Consult or liaise with other safety representatives at the same place of work or at other places of work controlled by the same employer
- To investigate potential hazards
- Reasonable time off to acquire knowledge and training and to carry out function without loss of pay
- The Safety Representative, once elected, will need training in order to fulfil their function. While they have many rights within the Act they have no duties, other than those of employees generally. The Safety Representative will normally interact with Safety Officer and other members of Management through regular meetings.
What else can a Safety Representative do?
- They can carry out a whole range of duties if the employer allows them to. They can get involved, constructively, in the following:
- Preparing risk assessments with Management or Safety Committee members
- Assisting with accident investigations
- Being involved with purchasing of new equipment or new production layouts
- Assist in training new employees in health and safety, if competent to do so Ultimately a Safety Representative can perform any functions approved by their employer but they are not required to manage health and safety for Management. Management still retain the duties and responsibilities to manage and these duties and responsibilities cannot be delegated to Safety Representative.
Is there a length of time a person can hold the position of Safety Representative?
- The law does not specify a set period for Safety Representatives to hold their position but a three-year term of office is generally accepted after which there should be a fresh election. The existing Representative can go forward again for election and may be elected again. Equally other employees may wish to go forward or the existing Representative may wish to stand down. The three-year period reflects the fact that Safety Representatives need to be trained, both in their general role and in the specific hazards and risks that exist in their employing company. In order to achieve value for that training they need three years to operate as Safety Representatives.