An introduction to reporting hazards
The workplace can be dangerous and all employers are responsible for carrying out risk assessments to identify the measures that need to be taken to protect staff and visitors from hazards. The assessment should be recorded where there are more than five people in the organisation.
However, it’s not just your employer’s responsibility to find hazards in the workplace. Everyone has a part to play in reducing risks and it’s important to know what to do if you spot a hazard.
A risk assessment is the process of defining what hazards exist or might appear in the workplace.
It is your employer’s job to carry out risk assessments where you work, to find anything that could cause harm and to remove or minimise risks.
Some of the areas where you are likely to find hazards include electrical safety, fire safety, manual handling or hazardous substances. There are less obvious dangers too – your employer must consider things like the risk of repetitive strain injuries or work-related stress.
How UNISON helps – and how you can too
UNISON’s safety reps play an important role in checking workplaces and helping employers to reduce risks.
Workplaces become safer when many people are alert to potential hazards. If you spot something you think might be hazardous in your workplace, report it to your employer and safety rep straight away.
Your employer should then decide what harm the hazard could cause and take action to eliminate, prevent or reduce that harm.
What to do if your employer ignores you
If you have a concern about health and safety or if you are worried that your employer isn’t taking measures to minimise risk, contact your safety rep straight away.
Another useful source of information is the Health & Safety Executive, the UK watchdog for health and safety in the workplace.
Next steps for UNISON reps
If you are a safety rep, make sure you know about your responsibilities and rights under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (SRSC). You have the right to:
- investigate health and safety matters;
- be consulted;
- inspect the workplace;
- receive information, including risk assessments;
- take paid time off to perform your functions and undergo training.
- Your employer has a legal duty to carry out risk assessments and act on their findings. You can help by reporting any potential dangers. If your employer ignores you, you should speak to your UNISON safety rep.
- It is your employer’s responsibility to assess risks and take all reasonable steps to deal with them.
- Everyone in the workplace has a responsibility to look out for risks – and to report them.
- If your employer doesn’t take action to reduce risks, speak to your UNISON safety rep.