Health and Safety

Important Information for Health and Safety Reps.

The SRSC Regs (H&S Reps bible) has been revised.  Check this link 


 Health & Safety – Not an Extra, Not a Luxury – But a Right!

UNISON believes health and safety in the workplace is an issue for everyone.

Every year, thousands of people suffer accidents and ill-health at work – most of which could be avoided.

Unions and health and safety laws save and protect lives. But many more could be protected from harm if health and safety laws were better enforced.

UNISON is at the forefront of major campaigns on stress, repetitive strain injury, back pain and violence. We are campaigning for a new way of working, one that guarantees every worker a safe and healthy workplace.

UNISON’s national website has a lot more information about health and safety generally (in a new window)

If you work for Essex County Council there is information on the Intranet at the Working Here section (we can’t put in a direct link from an external website like this.)

If you work for another employer or cannot access the intranet please contact the Branch office.

Health and Safety and Wellbeing in Schools

UNISON with NASWUT, NEU and a new company in the H & S field are working together to promote improvements to health and safety awareness in schools as well as to promote and encourage members to becoming health and safety reps. A website has been developed and we want to encourage UNISON members to use this.

Risk Assessments

It is the employer’s responsibility to write risk assessments

What are the implications if I write and sign a risk assessment when I have had no training?

  1. You could be held libel as an individual and held accountable
  2. What if I miss out essential Hazards
  3. What if I don’t list essential control measures

How can you write a risk assessment and list essential hazards and control measures if you have received no training – you cannot?

So is there anything I can do with respect to risk assessments to help my employer?

Yes, if the risk assessment being written involves the work you do then you can assist them by offering expert advice – but under no circumstances should you write them unless you have received proper training and certification in risk assessments. Good luck


The Branch Health & Safety Officers are getting increasing calls about problems with Asbestos. If you have any concerns about asbestos related problems in your establishment, please let either us know.

There are three main types of asbestos still found in theworkplace. These are commonly known as blue (crocidolite), brown (amosite), andwhite asbestos (chrysotile). All of them are dangerous and it is not possible to tell which is which by their visual colour alone. Importing, supplying or using asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACMs) is generally illegal, with just a few instances where the continued use of white asbestos is permitted. These including safety critical applications where there is currently no substitute and where it is a component of a product (if in use before 24 November 1999, and for the life of the product).

Despite the bans, the various types of asbestos continue to be a risk to the health of employees.

For further information on Asbestos, please click on this link


Stress is one of the biggest health issues at work today. Over half a million people will have their physical or mental health damaged as a result of stress at work.

The real extent of stress-related problems has been hidden because very few people are prepared to admit they are suffering from stress, or to seek help for it. Few people who have not experienced the depression, anxiety and despair which often accompanies stress, fully appreciate the effect it can have on people’s lives.

Even today, there are employers who claim that stress is good for you. This is nonsense. Stress can have serious consequences upon your health. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) accepts that there is no such thing as a pressure free job and UNISON agrees. Challenge and stimulation are necessary, but stress is not, and if a job is to be done well, stress should be avoided.

The levels of stress experienced will vary between people, as will their reactions to stress. Stress is also difficult to measure. Employers often portray stress as an individual problem rather than one affecting the whole workplace and may claim that it is caused by problems outside of work. While much stress can be caused by factors such as relationships, health and noisy neighbours, work is still one of the main causes of stress. Stress at work can also compound problems which result from stress caused by personal factors.

UNISON produces many publications on stress, so if you would like read more, please visit this section on the national UNISON website or phone the Branch Office.

The Branch is meeting with Essex County management to discuss stress within the Authority as more and more cases are now being reported.

Harassment and Bullying

What people find acceptable and unacceptable in another person’s behaviour can vary widely according to personality, experience and culture.

What matters is what the person on the receiving end of the behaviour feels, not what the person carrying out the behaviour thinks and feels. This is not something that a person behaving inappropriately will necessarily understand. They will often excuse inappropriate behaviour on the grounds that they were “just having a laugh” – engaging in normal workplace banter. What some people may find funny, however, others will find offensive. We are all different, a complex product of our experiences.

Bullying as defined by ACAS is “offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient”. Bullying is always a pattern of behaviour perpetrated over time.

Harassment is unwanted conduct that affects a person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive working environment for them. It can relate to sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, age or any other personal characteristic. Harassment could be a one off incident, or could be a pattern of behaviour perpetrated over time.

If you feel you are being bullied or harassed and would like to talk to someone, please phone the Branch Office on 01245 354044.

Questions and answers

Q: I’ve heard a lot about bullying and harassment in recent months, but from the union’s perspective, what do those terms really mean?

A: For most people, the terms bullying and harassment are used interchangeably.

Many definitions include bullying as a form of harassment. Generally speaking, harassment is any unwanted conduct affecting the dignity of anyone in the workplace. Harassment can be related to the nationality, race, sex, sexuality, disability, religion, age or the characteristic of an individual.

Bullying is characterised as offensive. We see it as bad behaviour that has extended from the playground to the workplace. It is intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.

All employees have the right to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness. Bullying denies this. It is totally unwelcome and unacceptable.

What sort of things count as bullying and harassing behaviour in the workplace?

There’s a whole range of behaviour that would constitute bullying and/or harassment, including:

  • spreading malicious rumours
  • insulting a person by words or behaviour on the grounds of nationality, race, sex, sexuality, disability, religion, age or belief
  • setting a person up to fail
  • ridiculing, demeaning or picking on someone
  • preventing individuals progressing their career by intentionally blocking promotion or training opportunities
  • misusing power or position, including overbearing supervision.

Bullying and harassment need not be face-to-face. It can occur in written communications such as letters and emails, while people can also experience bullying and harassment over the telephone.

If one of my members is being bullied or harassed at work, could it really affect their health and wellbeing?

People who are bullied or harassed may feel anxious or humiliated. They can develop feelings of helplessness, anger and frustration, which in turn may lead to stress, loss of self-confidence and illness.

In most cases, job performance is affected and relationships with other work colleagues suffer. The Health and Safety Executive acknowledges that bullying at work causes stress, so it follows that victims are also likely to suffer from stress-related illness such as ulcers, suicidal thoughts and high blood pressure.

What is the legal position?

Your employer has a duty of care and is responsible for preventing bullying and harassment within the workplace. Under health and safety laws, employers have a duty to assess risks to employees and to develop and introduce policies and procedure to control the risks.

In July 2006, a landmark judgement in the House of Lords, in the case of an NHS policy worker, established that the Protection from Harassment Act does apply to workplace bullying and harassment, thus potentially giving more protection to staff.

Since policies alone will not prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace, this was an important and welcome ruling.

Your Branch Health & Safety Officer is Neil Caney

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