Working safely

Coronavirus is, above all, a health and safety issue. From making the argument for PPE for key workers, to ensuring that members can work safely from home, the role of the health and safety rep has never been more important.

We’ve gathered together some online training and learning resources for UNISON health and safety reps, or for members who are interested in learning more.

If you think the role of the health and safety rep might be for you, then you can find out more in our presentation, ‘Becoming a health and safety rep – an introduction’

Download the presentation

If you’re not yet a health and safety rep but think you might like to become one, you can express your interest here:

Be on the safe side

As UNISON’s guidance for health and safety reps states, 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 front line of care 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.

UNISON’s Bargaining Support Group has produced a number of guides which can help health and safety reps make the case for a safer workplace.

Easing of lockdown

Staff unable to work

Sickness absence

All UNISON bargaining guides

The risk assessment is an important part of ensuring that the workplace is safe. Find out more on UNISON’s knowledge base.

Risk assessment

There are PowerPoint presentations exploring the implications of coronavirus for risk assessments as the lockdown begins to ease. You can use them to walk yourself through the issues, or perhaps present them to other branch reps over video conference.

Returning to work safely: presentation

“At Work” risk assessment: presentation

And the TUC has a very helpful e-learning module taking you through the risk assessment process step by step.

Coronavirus: return to safe workplaces

Other Powerpoint presentations cover what employers need to do (both in a social care setting and more generally) and basic health and safety principles as applied in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

What employers need to do (general)

What employers need to do (social care)

Health and safety principles and the coronavirus

UNISON held a webinar covering the topic of risk assessments on Thursday 28 May.

Watch a recording

The TUC’s webinars on issues around coronavirus have proved very popular, addressing questions concerning both those members who are still carrying out their normal duties and those who have been asked to change the way they work. If you weren’t able to watch them live, you can still catch up on YouTube. Of particular interest to health and safety reps will be:

No return to work until it’s safe

Coronavirus at work

Coronavirus at work: Q & A

Health and Safety in the Home

There are less obvious – but equally important – aspects to health and safety that have come into particular focus at this time. One of these is the issue of domestic abuse. As explained in UNISON’s guidance, domestic abuse is a trade union issue, and a health and safety issue. With many homes having suddenly become workplaces, and against a background of heightened tension, members may be at increased risk of experiencing domestic abuse.

The TUC has produced an e-learning module outlining the issues and explaining what you can do to help.

TUC domestic abuse guidance

TUC e-learning module

Mental health at work is also a health and safety issue, and one which has come under scrutiny during the coronavirus pandemic. Public services staff are working under high pressure and in stressful environments. UNISON has guidance on taking a health and safety approach to tackling stress.

Mental health matters: guidance for branches

Stress: a UNISON guide

UNISON’s course for new health and safety reps has been adapted for online delivery and will be rolled out across the union over the course of the next few months. Your regional education team will be able to advise you when the next course will be running.

Contact your regional education team

Meanwhile, you can get ahead of the subject with the TUC’s online health and safety reps’ course. While you won’t get the same chance to share experience, or networking opportunities, that you would on a face-to-face course, the online course allows you to learn a lot of the subject matter.

Find it on the TUC website

If you’re looking for a quick refresher on a particular health and safety issue, the TUC’s eNotes can take you through the basics in twenty minutes or so. The modules on Health and Safety and OrganisingWork Related Upper Limb Disorders, and Fit For Work may be of particular interest at this time.

TUC eNotes