Thank you for agreeing to be an NUT health and safety rep. As an NUT health and safety rep you play a vital role in the largest teachers’ union and are key to its continued success.
The NUT health and safety rep role is very rewarding, and many of the skills you develop in the role are transferable to your professional life. The role is also flexible – you decide how much time you can put in.
Any contribution towards building your union is greatly appreciated.
This guide sets out some of the activities in which an NUT health and safety rep can get involved. It may be that you undertake some, but not all, of the elements discussed in this guide.
Remember that the strength of the NUT is based upon members participating and making their voices heard. By acting together at work we can make a difference to the issues that are important to teachers.
If at any time you think that you need some advice, assistance or resources to help you in your role then you can visit our website and click on ‘Health and Safety’ or contact your local association/division or health and safety adviser. If you are not sure how to make contact, go here.
Part of the health and safety adviser’s role is to support school health and safety
If you are a new rep or have not yet attended training you are invited to book yourself a place on the NUT Health and Safety Reps’ Course (see the NUT website here.)
So have a look at this introductory guide. It should help you get started with the basics of the role and point you in the right direction for help and support.
Together we can make a difference!
As the NUT health and safety rep you have certain legal rights. You are entitled to:
Your association/division secretary or health and safety adviser can give you more details about how to assert these rights in your workplace.
The role of an NUT health and safety rep is very rewarding. By starting with the basics and then moving on in the role at your own pace you can build your confidence and skill level as you go. Once you have taken on the role, please inform your local association health and safety adviser and head teacher that you have been appointed.
Talk to the NUT school rep, who can introduce you to members, tell them about your role, and ask if anyone would like to help you with the work;
If you have taken over from the previous NUT health and safety rep you may have inherited some resources. If not, don’t worry, as a health and safety rep you will regularly be provided with materials to use and display, along with regular information bulletins to keep you updated;
Your NUT school rep will have a list of NUT members in your workplace along with their emails, so you could have a health and safety item on any regular communication or you could email members independently on health and safety issues;
Talking with colleagues
Talking to members about health and safety issues of importance to them is a crucial part of being a health and safety rep. It will help to listen to members’ concerns and, where appropriate, you can then raise these with school management to find a solution, or feed back into your association/division for help or assistance. Please also communicate key health and safety messages and campaigns promoted by the Union, for example, on keeping staff and pupils safe from asbestos in schools.
There are many ways in which to communicate with members. The form of communication you adopt will depend on the specific context but also on the aim of your communication.
Your NUT school rep should be able to provide you with the email addresses of all NUT members in the school. This is probably one of the most efficient ways of communication, especially in larger schools or those occupying more than one site.
No NUT rep in your workplace?
Every workplace needs a strong union team!
An NUT health and safety noticeboard is useful so you can display material that will be sent by the Union, and for notifying members about issues in your school. It is helpful if the notice board is in a prominent position and is kept up to date, perhaps by another NUT member.
Discuss with your NUT school rep about having a regular health and safety agenda item at NUT meetings, so that members are aware of the NUT ‘team’. Meetings need not be formal and can be more of a discussion between colleagues on specific issues of concern, for example, stress levels, or the presence of asbestos.
If there is no NUT school rep, members in some schools/workplaces will not be used to meeting as a union group. It is important to take the opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of members meeting and discussing issues collectively.
If you do wish to organise a meeting, these points may help:
(members should also feel that they can suggest discussion items for meetings);
It can be especially valuable for members in academies/free schools where there is no school rep or union activity to have a health and safety rep.
Remember – any contribution is worthwhile.
As a health and safety rep, members may approach you with a concern or a problem and seek your advice. You are not expected to know all the answers. Don’t forget, the NUT is there to support you in this role, with advice, training and resources. By keeping in touch with your association/division you’ll benefit from sharing experience with other NUT reps and officers.
The Role of the Health and Safety Rep
Newly appointed safety reps sometimes worry that the wide range of functions which they are entitled to undertake may also impose some legal duty upon them which goes beyond that of other employees. This is not the case and none of a safety rep’s functions imposes any legal duty upon them, for example, safety reps will not be legally responsible in any way if they carry out an inspection and fail to notice a particular hazard.
Some of the tasks an NUT health and safety rep could carry out are set out below:
It is always useful to distinguish whether a health and safety concern raised by a member is a collective issue or an individual one.
Individual issues may range from a relatively minor concern to a more serious issue. Individual issues may include accidents at work, excessively high or low classroom temperatures or work-related stress. Again, it is not necessary for you to be aware of all procedures relating to these matters (although a little bit of knowledge will go a long way, click on ‘Health and Safety’ for information). Rather, it is important that you are seen as someone with whom members feel comfortable talking about issues and concerns.
If you have any questions or want some advice please contact your association/division secretary or health and safety adviser.
Many problems that members bring to you as an individual issue will, however, also have a collective aspect. For example, a stress problem linked to a workload issue is unlikely to only affect a single teacher in a school. Members are often surprised to find that they can draw on the support of colleagues and work together to improve the situation.
If the issue or concern affects more than one member, then it is a good idea to get those members together. This could involve a meeting or just an informal chat. Some collective issues may be easily remedied by speaking with management, others may need to be resolved through the school health and safety committee or local authority/employer.
Before dealing with such concerns you need to make sure that the issue is relevant to members and potential members. If we campaign around issues that are important to colleagues, we increase our chances of getting them involved and of effecting positive change in the workplace. Before embarking on a campaign concerning any issue consider if it is:
On some issues, such as excessive workload, or concerns about bullying, you and the school rep will be able to work together. There are many areas of overlap between the role of the school rep and health and safety rep.
The NUT is the largest teachers’ union thanks to the recruitment work undertaken by our reps. Please liaise with your school rep to ensure that you know who is, and is not, an NUT member in your workplace.
Remember that recruitment is a year round activity. When student teachers join the school please introduce yourself as the NUT health and safety rep. Try to build a rapport with them and highlight the work the NUT does, then ask them to join if they are not already members.
Getting members involved
As well as recruiting new members it would also be useful for you and the school rep to identify other roles in your workplace which members could undertake.
Identifying a number of people willing to do a little will relieve you of workload and create a collective identity.
Getting people active in the NUT is easier if they see some relevance to the activity. Below are some tips on getting members more involved:
As NUT health and safety rep it is helpful to establish a dialogue with management.
A productive working relationship with management is something to aim for. The key thing to remember is that, when you are talking to management you are speaking as a representative of, and on behalf of, all NUT members and that you have the strength of the membership behind you.
Below are some tips on meeting with management:
As an NUT health and safety rep you are already fulfilling one of the most important roles in the Union. But you may want to extend your activity and involvement beyond your workplace, and encourage members to do the same.
If you feel you want to increase your involvement there are plenty of ways to do this:
Your key point of contact is your association/division secretary or health and safety adviser. If you do not already have their contact details please go here. They have a wealth of knowledge and expertise you can tap into, never be afraid to get in touch. It is only by understanding the real issues and concerns of its members that the NUT can make a positive impact on the working lives of teachers.
Thank you again for taking on this role – together we can make a difference!