2016 WE&T Health & Safety Seminar report 07/07/16

The Seminar was opened by Ruth Davis the WE&T Chair outlining the challenges ahead with Health and Safety and the uncertainty after the Brexit vote. One really interesting fact is that 63% of Health & Safety Regs have come from the EU since 2007. So now going forward changes can only be expected.

Tracey Ayton Harding, Unison Head of Health & Safety then addressed the meeting. Tracey spoke about major parts of the Unison H&S journey and the importance of things like the Unison Health & Safety 6 pack. All the info you need as a H&S rep. Next year the Biannual National H & S meeting is once again scheduled in March with the venue to be announced shortly.

Burning issues are RSI in younger workers with the introduction of technology (smart phones & tablets) at a much younger age causing issues with posture and joints. Part of the European legislation that may be challenged with the Brexit vote include things like COSHH, DSEAR in the future.

Also the trade union act going forward will meet challenges with facility time for stewards carrying out their duties.

The asbestos act is fast approaching for the eradication from public buildings by 2028 this includes Schools and any buildings regularly visited by the Public. Private building such as work premises will be completely eradicated of Asbestos by 2035. This is a big ask and I can imagine these dates realistically slipping.

Caps on fines for breaches in H & S are being removed so now small companies are having big fines which in some cases will make the companies cease trading.

There was then a session where questions were opened up from the floor. Questions received were.

Working time. What were Unison doing about the robust recording system to unable staff to comply with a 65hour rolling week. ANSWER. This was a piece of work carried by the WE&T exec team. Information to be sent out to branches.
DSE regs for mobile workers. This is an increasing problem and needs to be looked into further. More information to follow.
The rights of Union H&S reps opposed to company safety reps was discussed. Union safety reps have far greater powers for reviewing policy and carrying out investigations. This is because of the high level of training that the Union reps receive.
Access to third party land to access assets. It is the responsibility of the landowner and the asset owner to make safe access to areas that need permanent access.
Richard Houghton from the Environment Agency presented an initiative managing safety in the EA and how they have cut LTI’s. Although the headcount as dropped from 12500 FTE to 9500 they have had a focus on LTI’s from the Board members. With at least 1 Board member visiting all the main sites to roll out “The Big Conversation” message. This really sold the message and how serious the EA were on Safety. They used Highways England, H&S Laboratory (part of the HSE) and Human Applications to help with peer group reviews within the organisation.

A very interesting part of the work showed its was far easier to sell a H&S message with field workers than with office staff which is hard to understand, But an interesting observation.

The afternoon sessions we talked about Behavioural Safety and Risk Assessment. In the Behavioural Safety session there were mixed views on the benefits from different companies in the sector and different views on the effectiveness. A great debate was had over this. It was felt that this element of safety was an integral part of the H&S toolkit that is needed.

The other breakout looked at Risk Assessment which was a very basic topic to discuss at this level. I felt that there was no real learning had in this on the day as it was talking about Hazards and how to minimise Risk. Control measures etc.

The closing subject was the use of Telematics. (Trackers, Vehicle cameras and phone and computer tracking) This getting to be a big subject in the sector and the reason why. Is it H&S or is it Big Brother. Also concerns on what the information is being used for. There is a lot more to come on this and Severn Trent are in a good place with current policies. But we need to move with the times and watch what is coming next. The joint Unions are currently working on a tracking policy so just need to make sure it’s robust to protect our staff.

Paul Gibbons.

SevernTrent UNISON Branch Secretary

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