Consulting Employees on Health & Safety: UK Employers' Guide

Understanding the importance of consulting employees on health and safety is a crucial aspect of running a successful business in the UK.


James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.


06 November 2023


17 July 2024
2 min read
Consulting Employees on Health & Safety: UK Employers' Guide

Adhering to regulations such as the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 and the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977, not only ensures legal compliance but also brings numerous benefits including;

  • Improved productivity
  • Enhanced morale,
  • Safer work environments,
  • Better decision-making and,
  • Stronger employer-employee trust.

Regular, meaningful consultations on health and safety matters are not just a legal obligation but a smart business practice that fosters a cooperative and informed workforce.


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Why Consult Employees on Health and Safety?

Consulting your staff on health and safety is not just a legal box to tick - it brings tangible benefits to your business.

Two key regulations require you to consult employees:

  • The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996
  • The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977

These apply to virtually all workplaces. However, consulting staff gives you advantages beyond basic legislative compliance:

Boost Productivity

Employees often spot workflow inefficiencies that management overlooks. Involving them in health and safety decisions can identify opportunities to streamline processes and increase productivity.

Enhance Workplace Culture

Consultation demonstrates you value employees' perspectives and well-being. This improves morale, motivation and trust - fostering an open, collaborative culture.

Tap Local Expertise

Your staff have extensive knowledge of on-the-ground risks relevant to their roles. Consulting them leverages this experience to enhance risk control measures.

Drive Continuous Improvement

Regular staff consultation provides ongoing opportunities to identify hazards and refine safety practices - promoting continuous improvement.

Increase Legal Compliance

Proper consultation procedures ensure you meet your regulatory duties. This reduces risks of HSE enforcement action that could damage your reputation.


What Topics Must be Covered in Consultation?

The law outlines several matters that you must consult staff on, including:

  • Changes to work equipment, processes or systems that could affect health and safety
  • Arrangements for competent advice on health and safety compliance
  • Risks arising from work activities and how these are controlled
  • Planning of workplace health and safety training
  • Consequences of new technologies on health and safety

This applies to all employees, including agency workers, temporary staff and contractors under your supervision.


Providing Employees With Information

To enable meaningful consultation, you must provide staff with sufficient information on health and safety matters relevant to their work.

This includes details on workplace risks and control measures.

You should already have this information as part of your health and safety management system.

There is no need to present it differently - just make it available to employees and their representatives.

The law does not specify timescales for consultation. However, it must be carried out "in good time", allowing staff time to consider the issues and provide informed responses.


Effective Consultation Methods

Effective Consultation Methods

There are various ways you can consult employees on health and safety including:

Surveys: Seek staff feedback on specific risks and control measures via online surveys or paper questionnaires.

Focus Groups: Hold structured discussions with a sample group of workers to gather views on health and safety issues.

Meetings: Add health and safety as a regular agenda item in team meetings and company town halls.

Suggestion Schemes: Provide channels for staff to anonymously submit suggestions for health and safety improvements.

Safety Committees: Establish a committee with management and employee representatives to discuss health and safety.


Listening to Employees and Taking Account of Their Views

Consultation is a two-way process - it involves listening to employees and taking on board their perspectives before making health and safety decisions.

You still make the final decisions as the employer but workers often have valuable insights into risks and practical control measures relating to their day-to-day work. Speaking with them can identify issues you may have overlooked.


Supporting Health and Safety Representatives

As an employer, you must support elected health and safety representatives by:

  • Providing paid time off to carry out their functions
  • Funding reasonable associated training costs
  • Giving them the facilities and assistance they need, such as office space and equipment

You must not penalise employees for their involvement in health and safety consultation. This is prohibited under the Employment Rights Act 1996.


Get Expert Support on Workplace Consultation

Consulting your workforce on health and safety matters makes both practical and legal sense. At Neathouse Partners, our team of experts can guide you in setting up effective consultation arrangements at your organisation.

Call 0333 041 1094 or use our contact form to get in touch.


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