These are difficult and challenging times particularly for those of our members who are the on frontline of fighting this infection.
It is also a challenging time for UNISON’s safety reps who play such a vital role in keeping workers safe.
As a safety rep you are in a unique position to help and support members.
Sometimes, this can involve simply being there, listening and talking to members, sometimes explaining what is being done to keep them safe, sometimes simply explaining the facts as you know it, which in itself can help allay fears.
Your rights as a safety rep also gives you the opportunity to engage with employers in a spirit of partnership to make sure the concerns of our members are supported and listened to.
Here are just a few examples of the things you can do.
Representing members to the employer
This could include issues such as ensuring those with underlying health conditions have the opportunity to work from home, or if that is not possible, are redeployed to roles where they are less at risk.
Carrying out out inspections and investigating potential hazards
Coronavirus (COVID-19) represents a potential new hazard in the workplace.
It is therefore important that UNISON’s safety reps use their powers responsibly to carry out inspections where required, to make sure that everything possible is being done to reduce the risk of spreading the infection, and ensure those on the frontline of fighting are provided and trained in the use of the appropriate gloves, masks, aprons and eye protection.
Often, the most dangerous time for a health or care worker is when removing their equipment, and that is why it is important they are trained in how to do so.
Right to be consulted on matters affecting your members
These are exceptional circumstances and inevitably employers will be introducing equally exceptional measures.
These may include asking workers to self-isolate, adopt new hygiene procedures and in some cases perform duties or working in environments they previously were not familiar with.
All these have the potential to affect workers’ safety and it is therefore vital that employers are consulting with and discussing these changes with our reps.
Involving you in these decisions will ensure employers and unions can work together to communicate the right messages.