Health and Safety Enforcement

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2011 Health Care Service Group Conference
25 November 2010
Carried as Amended

Last year this conference welcomed the findings of the Boorman Report which highlighted the importance of:

1)The health & well being of NHS staff and the link between this and positive patient outcomes

2)Good quality occupational health services

3)Early interventions aimed at tackling the underlying causes of ill health and injury in the NHS such as violence and aggression, stress, bullying and harassment, manual handling and sharps injuries.

Conference notes the work of UNISON’s Health Service Group in working with employers to implement the Boorman findings and the European Framework Agreement on needlesticks and sharps.

Conference notes that in the UK each year there are over 20,000 premature deaths caused by work and over 2 million cases of people whose health has been damaged by work. However the NHS Staff Survey continues to show unacceptably high numbers of NHS staff reporting worked related injuries, being bullied and harassed, and subjected to physical violence.

Yet this coalition government has been engaged in a war against health & safety with the Health & Safety Executive subjected to cuts of 35%, seriously affecting its ability to carry out inspections, and other enforcement activity, particularly in our public services such as the NHS. The proposals in “Liberating the NHS” seriously undermine the ability of the Care Quality Commission to regulate and monitor staff health & well-being, and the drastic cutbacks the NHS is imposing on managerial and administrative support is seriously affecting occupational health support – in particular, that given to managers in managing sickness absence in a supportive, flexible and sensitive manner.

However this creates new opportunities for UNISON’s health and safety Reps. Under the NHS Constitution, the NHS is committed to providing support and opportunities for staff to maintain their health, well-being and safety. NHS employers, staff and staff sides are working in partnership to go beyond the legal minimums by building on the Improving Working Lives Standard, Healthy Workplaces Handbook and the NHS Staff Council Occupational Health and Safety Standards. In addition, trade union safety reps have unique rights and functions, protected by European Law. These include the powers to:

a)Investigate complaints on behalf of members;

b)Address problems they notice or that members bring to their attention;

c)Carry out health and safety inspections of their workplace at least four times a year;

d)Demand information if it affects the health and safety of members.

They also have the legal right to time off with pay to do their job as a health and safety rep.

Therefore, this Conference calls on the Health Group Executive working in conjunction with UNISON’s Health & Safety Department and using all forms of media, to promote and defend alongside other trade unions and campaigning bodies like the Hazards campaign (which is comprised of national, regional and local health and safety campaigning organisations) the:

i)Role, rights, powers and functions of safety reps across the UK;

ii)Potential of safety reps, and the health & wellbeing agenda, as an organising tool;

iii)UNISON health & wellbeing agenda within the NHS and the role health & safety reps can play in driving and enforcing it.

iv) Campaign ‘We Didn’t vote to Die at Work’ which is coordinated by the Hazards Campaign and promotes health and safety rights and employers’ and government’s responsibilities.