Blog: your right to be safe from harm at work

As UNISON has been working hard for our members during the coronavirus crisis, I know that the issue of getting the right personal protective equipment (PPE) is the still the top priority for everyone fighting this pandemic.

Rest assured that this is also an issue on which your union is challenging the government. At every opportunity we are raising PPE with the health and safety executive, public health authorities, senior civil servants and employers across the UK on a daily basis.

Public health authorities have produced guidance on what PPE should be available in different settings and you can check this on our website.

If you are unsure then please raise this with your branch or with regions but I have a clear message for you and your members, now.

UNISON believes that workers should never be in a situation where they might endanger themselves and others in the course of doing their jobs.

Putting you in that situation is a breach of health and safety law and may spread coronavirus to people in high-risk groups.

As a last resort, when faced with a dangerous working environment which you cannot reasonably be expected to avert, every employee “has the right not to suffer detriment if they leave, or refuse to attend their place of work (or any part) in circumstances where they reasonably believe that they are being exposed to serious and imminent danger”.

In plain English, let me be clear – although this is a measure of last resort, UNISON will provide advice and support to members who choose to exercise these rights.

These are extraordinary times and your union is with you every step of the way.

I want to finish by saying a huge thank you again for the incredible work you are all doing. The jobs you do across across our public services are vital for the health, wellbeing and safety of everyone in this country.

We are already acting to make sure this is not forgotten when the country is through this crisis and that your work is properly rewarded – and that all public service workers are treated with dignity and respect

You are there for everyone in the UK during this very worrying time and UNISON is always here for you.

Dave Prentis

UNISON general secretary