ETUC Health and Safety conference shows: Worker participation is key to promote health and safety at work

(2 July 2013) Experience gathered in several EU Member States has shown that it is helpful to adopt a strategy that combines health and safety representation within companies with regional or site representation for very small companies. Unions through their activities have a key role to play in giving new impetus to health and safety policy. This activity rests on the promotion of the role of worker H&S representatives, ‘Safety Reps’, to increase the visibility of workplace H&S problems, to support the definition of collective priorities and mobilise workers to improve working conditions.

Worker participation is key at all levels. Experience shows the benefit of an approach combining company-based representation with a regional or site approach to cover very small companies. Trade union health and safety policy is inseparable from industrial relations and collective bargaining systems as a whole. It must consider ways of better organising precarious workers, migrant workers, self-employed workers and others, who work where measures to ensure health and safety at work are often neglected.

The ETUC Conference on the Safety Reps Project – ‘Health, Safety and Risk Prevention: towards better information, consultation and participation of workers within companies’ was held in Budapest on 22 and 23 May 2013. The conference brought together 73 trade union participants from a majority (22) of EU Member States, the representatives of EU OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Agency) and EUROFOUND and researchers from the French consultancy company Secafi/Consultingeuropa.

Participants discussed the first draft of an educational tool on Safety Reps in the EU Member States. They exchanged good practice and experience between the representatives of the national affiliates of the ETUC. Previously most of the participants contributed to the current EU OSHA healthy workplace campaign – ‘Working Together for Risk Prevention'.
The presentations covered the most important issues regarding worker participation in Occupational Health and Safety; especially examples of national arrangements and legislative requirements regarding Safety Reps and their training. The participants also discussed the different forms of trade union support for Safety Reps and the participation of workers.

Two very interesting presentations that give a good overview of the current situation and developments in Health and Safety at work are attached below. All the presentations are available on the ETUC website.

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