Safety reps save lives

01 October 2017

(Article by MICK HOLDER of ASLEF’s health and safety department, as featured in the ASLEF Journal October 2017) 


This year is the 40th anniversary of the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977, a piece of criminal law passed by parliament which gives legal rights to trade union reps in companies where there is a recognition agreement between the employer and the trade union – and more legal rights than any other union representative.

These regulations have allowed the election of trade union health and safety representatives at workplaces and given them rights in law. Rights that have allowed them to negotiate for a safer, healthier world of work; so much so that the clarion call is clear – ‘safety reps save lives’.

Employers are required, by law, to manage health and safety by a process of risk assessment, to identify all the hazards arising from their work and quantify risk, put controls in place to reduce the risk and monitor how well they perform, making adjustments where failings are found or improvements can be made. Employers are also legally required to consult trade union health and safety reps on any measure that substantially affects health and safety in the workplace ‘in good time’.

‘The health and safety of the people should be the supreme law.’ – Marcus Tullius Cicero


ASLEF reps have been negotiating on behalf of members on issues as diverse as improving new train cab designs to the provision of toilets and rest facilities. Whilst our reps haven’t completely won every struggle – rotten Class 66s come to mind although, even there, there have been improvements – but they have achieved much.

Better walking routes; defoliation; lighting of depots; cab ergonomics; improving new technology such as GSM-R, DAS and ERTMS; taxi agreements; a BTP hotline for suicides; suicide prevention; suitable toilet and rest provisions for women; uniforms suitable for men and women to wear; and assisting people to make personal injury claims against their employer are all victories in the workplace in which our reps can proudly say they played a significant part.

Any ASLEF member with a health, safety or welfare problem at work should raise the matter with their health and safety rep who will advise on the best way to progress the matter.

 health and safety

Events to recognise the work of these union reps are being organised, with a planned launch in Parliament this month followed by activities all the way up to Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2018. ASLEF will be marking the work of our own reps who have made a significant contribution to the safety performance of Britain’s railways – currently amongst the best in the world.

The Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations are available in the brown book – a pdf version of which is available free to download at




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