European Health and Safety Week (EHSW) happens every year in the last full week of October (this year it starts on 22 October). The theme this year is healthy workplaces: hazardous substances.

UNISON takes your health and safety seriously and we think EHSW is a great opportunity to highlight the fantastic work our safety reps do every day. So we are asking our reps and branches to use EHSW to shine a spotlight on this vital work to keep staff and the public safe, promote better health and safety and highlight the role of the union and our safety reps in achieving this.

That’s why we ask our safety reps to organise events in their workplaces and to time things so that they carry out a safety inspection in their workplace sometime during that week.


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Top ten tips

So, now is the time to start thinking about what you can do during that week, and start planning your safety inspection.  Below you will find 10 top tips to help you do just that together with some of the UNISON resources that can help. The publications and guidance mentioned here are available either in the resources section on this page, on the health and safety webpages or on our online catalogue. The list isn’t exhaustive, you will have your own ideas too. 

Carry out a safety rep inspection
Wednesday 25 October is TUC National Inspection Day. Scheduled to fall during European Health and Safety Week (#EHSW2018) it is a reminder of the importance of regular health and safety inspections. Union safety reps have a legal right to inspect the workplace areas they cover at least once every three months. Remember to give your employer reasonable written notice (one week should suffice) and try and doing it jointly with them.  Speak to your employer about using European Health and Safety Week to do any outstanding inspections which you believe are important to our members’ safety.  Read our safety reps inspection guide.

Hold a union meeting
Hold a union meeting to raise awareness about health and safety, discuss a particular issue, or to listen to members’ concerns. If you think it will help encourage people to attend, consider holding it during lunchtime or ask the employer to allow staff to attend during their work time. You could also invite non-members too – they might be interested in joining UNISON.

UNISON has loads of information to download if you need to brief yourself on an issue (see above for links).

Carry out a body or risk mapping exercise
These are great ways of identifying work hazards, breaking down barriers, and involving workers who might not otherwise report an issue or participate. They can be a fun exercise to do together and you end up with a visual record which may be easier to analyse – lots of problems in one place may help to sort out the priorities.

Put simply they involve using a drawing of a body or the workplace upon which health and safety concerns can be marked.

On a body map staff would be asked to mark the areas where aches and pains, injuries, or diagnosed health concerns occur.

On a map of the workplace, they may mark incidents recorded in the accident book, reasons given for sickness absence, and/or any other incidents or issues of concern that workers can recall.

For more information and examples go to: Hazards Magazine, the HSE risk mapping tool, and/or the HSE body mapping tool.  Download a free body map or use some old wallpaper and draw around someone to create a life size model.

Do a survey of employees (both members and non-members of UNISON) to see what health and safety concerns they may have
Keep it simple as that improves your chances of a better response – people don’t have time to fill in long, complicated surveys.  It could be a simply as emailing staff and asking them to list, in order, their top five health and safety concerns. You could make it even easier by supplying a list of 10 issues and asking them to rank their top five in order.

Check for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), repetitive strain or back injuries in your workplace
Use the safety rep checklist in the UNISON Leaflet Aches, pains and strains to check for MSDs in your workplace.  Use the list when carrying out inspections, reviewing risk assessments or simply talking to members and other staff.

Ask the employer to jointly review or develop a risk assessment, policy, and/or procedure
Read the UNISON guide on risk assessments for advice on how employers should be conducting risk assessments, and share your knowledge with them to make sure that they are fit for purpose.

Hold a “spot the hazards” competition
Ask them to send details (by email or on paper) of hazards (and suggested solution/s) in their workplaces.

Alternatively search online and download a suitable spot the hazard picture.

To encourage participation consider awarding prizes either for the most hazards spotted, the most serious hazard spotted, or the best solutions put forward.

Produce a health and safety newsletter
Keep it short and simple, it’s easier for you to produce, and for your members to read.  Highlight the hazards in your workplace, using UNISON advice and guidance, for ideas on how they should be tackled.

Email or distribute our health and safety guides and leaflets aimed at members
Choose and either print or email one or more of our guides and pamphlets to members. These aim to inform and raise awareness so that members can identify if there’s a problem and suggest what employers and staff side can do in partnership to fix them.If you don’t have them in stock already don’t worry you can download or print them from the UNISON health and safety website and online catalogue.

Guides and leaflets you might be interested for 2018 European Health and Safety Week include:

Are you at risk?: An A5 leaflet on risk assessment.  (stock number 2720)
Health and safety inspections at work: a guide for UNISON safety reps (stock number 1939)
Are you exposed to hazardous substances at work? A UNISON guide for members (stock number 3710)
Stress at Work – a guide for UNISON safety reps (stock number 1725)
Aches, pains and strains leaflet (stock number 3863).

Just talk about health and safety!
We know you are all busy having to balance the demands of your job with representing UNISON members.  However, if you don’t have time for any of the above make sure you use at least part of the week, however small, to have a chat with members, colleagues or your manager about health and safety. Use the week to make health and safety matter!

And don’t forget, whatever you plan, please tell us about it. If you email us ( your plans before 19 October we will help you promote your event, send you a goodie bag and you may even get a UNISON Health and Safety High Five!  You can post your news on or tweet it at

Remember to use the #HSHigh5, #EHSW2018 and #UNISON.