The Health and Safety Representative

Role and functions

Health and safety duties

Headteachers and principals
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in England
Risk assessment
Safety Committees

The Health and Safety Representative
Role and functions

A Health and Safety Representative (H&S Rep):

  • is elected by fellow members of a recognised trade union to represent them on matters of health, safety and welfare at work;

  • can be elected to represent members of each trade union within the workplace by agreement;

  • may represent members of other recognised unions (not only teachers) if so requested;

  • is not liable in law for any duties beyond those common to all employees (see Duties: Employees);

  • has rights established in law;

  • is not ‘appointed’ by the headteacher/principal or governing body/board.

A person appointed by the headteacher/principal to oversee health and safety, commonly known as the school or college health and safety officer, or competent person, has quite a different role and is responsible in law for the way in which he/she carries it out. Union Health and Safety Representatives cannot be held legally liable for failing to carry out their functions. An NASUWT Health and Safety Representative is indemnified by the Union.

Teachers seek legal and professional protection from a teachers’ union. They often overlook the role that the NASUWT plays in the protection of their health, safety and welfare. It is important to ensure that all staff are involved in and made aware of the work done in their interests by the NASUWT Health and Safety Representative. Non-members should be encouraged to join and receive the full benefits of NASUWT membership.

Under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (SRSC), Health and Safety Representative’s functions are defined as:

  • representing NASUWT members’ health and safety interests in consultation with the senior management;

  • investigating potential hazards and dangerous occurrences;

  • examining the causes of accidents at work;

  • investigating complaints from the people you represent;

  • occasionally meeting a Health and Safety Inspector;

  • carrying out safety inspections of the workplace;

  • attending meetings of the Health and Safety Committee;

  • reading health and safety information provided by an inspector, your employer and the NASUWT.



A Health and Safety Representative has the right to:

  • investigate potential and actual hazards and dangerous occurrences - it is important to establish the facts and gather evidence, especially if the Local Association is likely to become involved;

  • investigate colleagues’ complaints;

  • present colleagues’ concerns to management;

  • carry out workplace inspections (use the standard employer, local authority (LA) form if there is one; otherwise, a Model Inspection Report Form is provided on Useful Sources);

  • as much time off with pay as is necessary to carry out those functions, and reasonable facilities and assistance;

  • paid time off for training as long as the training is reasonable (the ten-day TUC course is accepted as ‘reasonable’ by the Employment/Industrial Tribunal);

  • receive information relevant to any matter that might impact upon the health, safety and welfare at work of the people that he/she represents;

  • be consulted by management on any matter as above, including the appointment of ‘competent persons’,[*] and arrangements for health and safety training;

  • be consulted by the employer in good time with regard to the introduction of any measure at the workplace which may substantially affect the health and safety of employees;

  • require the setting up of a safety committee if one other Health and Safety Representative also requests it;

  • protection in law against being victimised for carrying out their functions.


*see Risk Assessment


  • In school/college, the Health and Safety Representative should work in co-operation with:

    • the NASUWT Representative (health and safety matters will frequently have a bearing on members’ conditions of service);

    • the NASUWT teacher governor;

    • representatives of other unions - if possible.

  • Outside the school/college:

    • their Local Association or Federation Health and Safety Co-ordinator, who can call on expert help from Headquarters;

    • their Local Association Secretary; or if unavailable

    • their National Executive Member.

Where can I get information on health and safety issues?

It is essential that Health and Safety Representatives receive at least Stage 1 training.



The NASUWT believes that a trained Health and Safety Representative is a vital member of the Union team within a school or college. A safe, inclusive and healthy working environment is crucial to safeguarding the wellbeing of NASUWT members and in achieving key Union policies such as a satisfactory work/life balance.

The Union’s training courses are progressive, with Stage 1 and Stage 2 courses aimed at school or college representatives, and a Stage 3 course aimed at senior Health and Safety Representatives such as Co-ordinators and Local Association Health and Safety Officers.

Additionally, there is an annual briefing held for Health and Safety Training Officers and Co-ordinators at Hillscourt Education Centre, with a mix of NASUWT and external speakers and an opportunity to discuss developments and guidance in the field of health and safety.


The NASUWT Health and Safety Representative in schools is an essential part of the NASUWT team working to improve the working lives of teachers. This course provides the NASUWT Health and Safety Representative with the knowledge and skills needed to tackle the physical and mental-health hazards faced by members.

In addition, participants will gain an understanding of the legal duties of employers, managers and employees in respect of health and safety. The course is in two parts of one day each.

This course is offered at all NASUWT Centres.

Those who are, or are about to become, NASUWT Health and Safety Representatives are eligible to apply for places on these courses.


The Health and Safety (Stage 2) course builds on the knowledge and skills acquired at Stage 1 and enables trained representatives to extend their knowledge of health and safety law and practice in the company of skilled tutors.

The course focuses upon the processes of risk assessment and allows a detailed examination of health and safety problems in schools.

The course is offered on a residential basis at Hillscourt Education Centre and on a non-residential basis at many NASUWT Centres.

Those who have completed the Stage 1 course are eligible to apply for a place on this course.


This is a course for the more experienced representatives involved in health and safety, including the ‘roving’ representative or those with responsibility for more than their own school or college.

Focused on using health and safety to enable successful organising within the workplace and on developing the NASUWT’s effectiveness, the course covers the following topics: Organising around health and safety; Identifying and developing Safety Representatives; Working constructively with the employer; Safety Committees; Extending Safety Representatives’ rights; Promoting equality within health and safety; and Action planning.

The target audience for this course is Local Association Health and Safety Officers, Health and Safety Training Officers and Health and Safety Co-ordinators.


Senior managers in schools and colleges carry responsibility for the effective management of health and safety. If teachers, other employees and pupils are to be safe and healthy whilst in schools and colleges, senior managers need to develop and implement appropriate management strategies.

This one-day course familiarises those NASUWT members with senior management responsibility with the knowledge and skills needed in this important area. The course is built around the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) ‘Managing for Health and Safety’ principles.

Who pays for training?
  • The NASUWT health and safety courses are free to NASUWT Health and Safety Representatives and their travel expenses are reimbursed.

  • It is the school/college’s responsibility to provide cover.

  • If you have any difficulty in being released, contact your Local Association Secretary immediately.

  • Health and Safety Representatives have a legal right to time off for training.


Health and safety duties


Under the Health and Safety at Work (HASAW) Act 1974, an employer carries the major responsibility ‘to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of his employees’. The Act requires consultation and co-operation with Health and Safety Representatives in order to achieve this. The HASAW Act is the basis of all health and safety legislation and is summarised in the ‘Legislation’ section of this handbook.

Although health and safety tasks may be delegated to employees who are competent to carry them out, the responsibility itself cannot be shifted.

In community and voluntary controlled schools, the employer is the local authority (LA). In academies, voluntary aided and foundation schools, the trust or governing body/board is the employer. In sixth-form, tertiary and further education (FE) colleges, it will be the governing body/board or the trustees.

In independent schools throughout the UK, the employer may be the governing body/board, the trustees or the proprietor.

Those who ‘have to any extent control of premises’ (such as governing bodies in schools/colleges where the employer is the LA or headteacher/principal) have the responsibility of managing health and safety on a day-to-day basis.


Headteachers and principals

It is important to be well aware of the duties imposed upon the management of schools and colleges in order to satisfy the general requirements of the Act and to ensure that their legal obligations towards you and the Health and Safety Representative are fulfilled.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 sets out these duties:

  • GB Regulation 4: The employer has a responsibility to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of risks and take action to prevent exposure to risks. (See Risk Assessment.) The Approved Code of Practice calls for the establishment of a ‘positive health and safety culture’.

  • Regulation 5: To make arrangements for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventative and protective measures; organisations must include effective means of communication and consultation with employees and their representatives.

  • Regulation 6: To provide health surveillance as is appropriate, having regard to the health and safety risks identified by risk assessment.

  • Regulation 7: To appoint ‘competent persons’ to assist in this duty; such persons must have sufficient training and experience or knowledge.

  • Regulations 8 and 9: To adopt procedures to deal with serious and imminent danger and for contacts with emergency services.

  • Regulation 12: To ensure that contractors and those providing extended services are provided with information, including risks to health and safety and measures taken by the employer to comply with health and safety requirements.

  • Regulation 13: To provide appropriate health and safety training for employees in working time.

  • Regulation 15: To provide comprehensive information on health surveillance, any occupational qualifications and skills required to work safely, and the measures taken to avoid risk.

  • Regulation 16: To carry out specific assessments, if there are women of child-bearing age employed, of risks to new and expectant mothers.

  • Regulation 19: To protect young persons, under the age of 18, in the workplace (e.g. on work experience) from risks due to their lack of experience or absence of awareness of existing or potential risks.

The employer’s obligations in respect of safety representatives are outlined in the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 3rd edition 1996 (The ‘Brown Book’ - see Legislation). Note especially that employers must accord Health and Safety Representatives the facilities and assistance that they need in order to carry out their functions and must consult Health and Safety Representatives with a view to establishing co-operation in ensuring a safe and healthy workplace.



Employees must:

  • take reasonable care of themselves and others;

  • co-operate with the employer in matters of health and safety;

  • not damage or misuse safety equipment (HASAW Act, sections 7,8);

  • use work equipment or machinery safely;

  • draw the employer’s attention to any deficiencies (Management Regulation 14, 1999).

The NASUWT Health and Safety Representatives should: have no management-imposed duties beyond those of any other employee, but they have rights as set out above.


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in England

  • the HSE, together with local authorities, is the main agency for the enforcement of health and safety legislation in England;

  • the HSE inspectors have extensive powers, including the power to issue improvement and prohibition notices;

  • the chances of an inspector making a routine visit to a school/college are small;

  • an inspector should never be called in to resolve a problem until all local procedures have been exhausted;

  • in such a case, the inspectorate should be approached only through the NASUWT Health and Safety Co-ordinator or Local Secretary;

  • the HSE may be contacted for information via its website at; and

  • the HSE produces a range of booklets and leaflets, some of which are free to download from their website. Priced publications can be ordered from the websites or HSE Books.



A brief outline of health and safety law
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HASAW)

Part 1, section 2, of the Act sets out the general duties of the employer: ‘to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.’

  • Within this duty are included matters such as:

    • plant and systems of work;

    • handling, storage and transport of articles and substances;

    • information, instruction and training for employees;

    • means of access and egress to and from the workplace;

    • a safe and healthy working environment with adequate facilities for welfare.

  • The ‘general duties’ go on to require:

    • a written policy statement;

    • consultation with union Health and Safety Representatives;

    • setting up of a safety committee if requested by Health and Safety Representatives.

Manufacturers and suppliers have responsibility for the safety of their products and must provide information to ensure safe use.

  • Employees must:

    • take reasonable care of themselves and others;

    • co-operate with the employer in matters of health and safety;

    • not interfere with, or misuse, any safety equipment.

The HASAW Act is an enabling act: it does not lay down specific standards. Such details are dealt with in further regulations and codes of practice, which include the following:
The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (3rd edition 1996)
  • these set out the appointment, rights and functions of Health and Safety Representatives and the setting up and functions of safety committees (known as the ‘Brown Book’). They are essential reading for the Health and Safety Representative.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (revised 1999)
  • these set out in further detail responsibilities of employers and managers which include risk assessment, policies and a requirement to consult Health and Safety Representatives;

  • employees are further required:

    • to act in accordance with their employers’ safety procedures and training;

    • to inform their employers of any dangers or deficiencies.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
  • requirements and standards in respect of specific areas of health and safety;

  • note that the minimum space requirements for workplaces do not apply to classrooms.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
  • requirements to avoid, so far as reasonably practicable, the need for employees to undertake manual handling operations at work which involve a risk of their being injured.

The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 (DSER)
  • requirements to carry out risk assessments on individual work stations used by users or operators.

The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
  • requirements to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and to take necessary action to protect employees’ health and safety. Charging employees for the provision or use of such PPE is not allowed.

Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
  • requirements on duty holders to manage asbestos within the buildings for which they are responsible.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
  • nomination of persons responsible for arrangements for fire safety and risk assessment.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)
  • require the employer to risk assess and manage substances potentially injurious to health.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005
  • requirements to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work and legal limits on noise exposure.

The School Premises Standards 2012 (England)
  • standards specific to schools (for example, washrooms, staff accommodation, acoustics, lighting, heating, ventilation, and water supplies).

In addition, a clear, comprehensive and concise guide is produced annually by the Labour Research Department called Health and Safety Law.



In England, the Health and Safety at Work etc Act of 1974 (HASAW), section 2(3), sets out the employer’s duty to prepare a written statement of its health and safety policy.

In local authority (LA) schools/colleges, the LA will set out a policy framework on which the school/college must base its own policy.

The degree of prescription of the LA document and the extent to which the school/college develops its own will depend on the terms of the local scheme.

Foundation and voluntary-aided school governing bodies, academies, free schools, college corporations, independent schools and FE college governing bodies, as employers, have a responsibility to adopt their own policies, which may be adapted from existing models.

Although the employer will, in practice, hand over functions to the governing body/board and headteacher/principal, the ultimate responsibility for health and safety cannot be delegated.

A safety policy should have three elements:

  • statement of intention;

  • organisation (for example, who is responsible for what);

  • arrangements - for example, in respect of:

    • consultation with Health and Safety Representatives;

    • information and training for employees;

    • procedures for specific aspects of safety such as fire, security, first aid and contractors; and

    • monitoring of procedures.

The policy must be:

  • subject to consultation with Health and Safety Representatives;

  • reviewed regularly and kept up to date;

  • communicated clearly to employees; and

  • compliant with the duties placed on public bodies to promote:

    • race equality;

    • gender equality;

    • disability equality; and

    • community cohesion.


Action point! Check your policy document:

  • Signed?

  • Dated?

  • Statement of intent?

  • Organisation?

  • Information?

  • Training?

  • Procedures?

  • Review?

  • Display?

  • Circulation?

  • Consultation?


The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013 specify that certain types of ‘injuries’, ‘diseases’ and ‘dangerous occurrences’ affecting staff or self-employed people working on the premises must be reported to the HSE. The employer is responsible for this.

The headteacher/principal, on behalf of the employer, must notify the HSE immediately by the quickest practicable means and follow this up, within ten days of the accident, with a written report, using the appropriate form.

In England, the simplest way to do this is to contact the Incident Contact Centre. This can be done by:

  • completing and submitting the appropriate form online at;

  • reporting fatalities and major injuries only by telephoning: 0845 300 9923 Mon-Fri 08.30-17.00 (a printed version will be sent back for the school/college’s records).

Space does not allow a full list of reportable incidents to be reproduced here, but it may be useful to note that the list includes:

  • any injury resulting in absence from work for more than seven days, excluding the day of the incident but including weekends and public holidays;

  • any injury requiring admittance to hospital for more than 24 hours.

It should also be noted that:

  • the definition of ‘accident’ includes an act of violence to an employee.

Health and Safety Representatives should ensure that relevant ‘accidents’ are reported by school/college managers so that such information may be taken into account when the HSE compiles its statistical analysis at the end of each year.

Accidents to pupils or visitors must be reported if the person involved is killed or taken to hospital and the incident arises out of or in connection with the work of the school/college.

A full list of what is reportable is available from the HSE on their website at


Risk assessment

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require the employer to go out into the workplace and actively seek out hazards, then carry out a ‘suitable and sufficient’ risk assessment (Regulation 3[1]). The employer is then required to remove or control the hazard(s) by measures proportional to the extent of the risks they pose.

The process of risk assessment
  • Hazards may be physical, may be connected with work processes, or may be related to the general work environment. A fire risk assessment must be used in order to determine what fire precaution arrangements are necessary;

  • Risk can be measured in terms of the likelihood of the hazard actually causing injury, the number of people likely to be affected and the degree of injury likely to occur; and

  • Control measures are steps taken by the employer to protect employees and others from the identified risks. The most acceptable control measure is to remove the hazard altogether, so that the risk level becomes zero. If this is not reasonably practicable, the employer must take whatever reasonably practicable steps are necessary to reduce the level of risk to the minimum. Where there are statutory standards, the employer’s minimal response must be to meet these standards, although sometimes further action may be necessary. The employer must write down the results of the risk assessment and the control measures which have been adopted, and make the written record available to employees.


In community and voluntary-controlled schools, this is the LA. In academies, voluntary-aided, voluntary grammar, grant-maintained integrated schools and foundation schools, this is the trust or governing body/board. In an independent school, it may be the trust, governing body/board or the proprietor, as the case may be. In sixth-form, tertiary and FE colleges, it will be the governing body/board or the trustees. Employers:

  • can conduct the risk assessment themselves, or employ others to carry out the task for them. ‘Others’ may be outside consultants or existing employees. In either case, they must be ‘competent’ by dint of training, experience or aptitude and knowledge of the workplace. The employer is solely responsible for ensuring the competence of those to whom the task has been delegated;

  • have a statutory duty to ‘consult safety representatives in good time with regard to the arrangements for the appointment or nomination of competent persons’ (SRSC Regs 4A(1)[b]).

Headteachers/principals and governing bodies/boards in LA schools and colleges

Headteachers/principals and governing bodies/boards in LA schools and colleges have a duty to abide by the terms of the LA safety policy and to ensure that risk assessments have been carried out. Headteachers/principals in academies and free schools should abide by the trust’s safety policy, where this is different from the local LA policy.


Whilst heads of department and class teachers have statutory and contractual obligations to co-operate with their employers with regard to matters concerned with health and safety, no teacher should take on any health and safety task which they believe to be beyond the limit of their competence. Teachers can discharge a contractual obligation to carry out a risk assessment by identifying and bringing to the attention of the employer those areas where they do not believe themselves to be competent to carry out the assessment.

The Health and Safety Representative

The Health and Safety Representative:

  • has a statutory right to be consulted on arrangements for the appointment or nomination of a ‘competent’ person, and on the provision of health and safety training;

  • has a right to be consulted on arrangements for delegating the task of risk assessment, and on the level of training offered;

  • should request that risk assessments be carried out on any known hazards and exercise their right of access to the written risk assessments and control measures;

  • should advise members asked to undertake the task of risk assessment, and who feel themselves lacking in competence in any area, to make this known to the headteacher/principal. They should ask for ‘suitable and sufficient’ training, and enter a caveat on any risk assessment submitted, pointing to lack of competence in any area;

  • should exercise their statutory right to be consulted on the conduct of risk assessments to ensure that gaps in the process caused by delegation of risk assessment are addressed. It may be in areas such as stress and violence that expert help will be required;

  • should insist that adequate time and other resources are made available to those called upon to carry out the task of risk assessment;

  • should remember that the NASUWT is opposed to the use of generic risk assessments, except in those cases where circumstances are demonstrably common to all schools/colleges.

In all aspects of health and safety, the use of gender stereotyping, such as exaggerating differences between men and women, should be avoided. The NASUWT supports the gender-neutral approach which considers issues sensitively and in context.


Safety Committees

In England, the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, section 2(6), assumes that management and employees will co-operate in the promotion of health and safety and requires management to consult Health and Safety Representatives. A properly set-up safety committee can be an effective means of achieving such co-operation.

Setting up:

A safety committee must be set up if at least two Health and Safety Representatives request it in writing:

  • it must be established within three months of the request;

  • Health and Safety Representatives must be consulted on its composition and role;

  • employees must be informed, by written notice, who the members are;

  • the committee must have its own distinct identity;

  • it should be charged with the consideration of all aspects of health, safety and welfare in the workplace.

Functions might include:

Consideration and advice to management in respect of:

  • accident/sickness statistics;

  • safety audit reports;

  • Health and Safety Representatives’ inspection reports;

  • progress of risk assessments;

  • development of health and safety procedures.

The committee cannot take away the responsibilities of employer or management.

Membership of the committee should:

  • be determined in consultation between management and Health and Safety Representatives;

  • comprise both management representatives and employees;

  • include trade union Health and Safety Representatives. Safety Representatives and safety committees guidance states that management representatives should not outnumber employees and should have sufficient authority to get things done.

Meetings should:

  • take place as often as is necessary;

  • be planned and listed in the yearly calendar;

  • keep agreed minutes.

The NASUWT Health and Safety Representative should:

  • use the safety committee to articulate the Union’s policy and to raise the issues and concerns of members. This reinforces the link between member and representative and ensures that the NASUWT organises around matters which are of direct interest to members.

  • Regulation 9: Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977: 01787 881165

  • Regulation 9: Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1979

Action point! Agree dates on the school/college calendar for:

  • inspections;

  • staff safety training;

  • meetings of the safety committee.

Record these key dates at the front of this handbook.


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