Health and safety personnel
Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work (Framework Directive on health and safety) provides for a variety of personnel to be involved in health and safety at the workplace, in particular in the area of enforcement of health and safety standards at work. The personnel involved have different, sometimes overlapping, functions, but are entitled to appropriate facilities and assistance and, in the case of employees, are protected against employer sanctions.
As far as employee engagement is concerned, the EU policy provides for the appointment of workers with specific responsibility for safety and health, designated workers, general worker representatives, and worker representatives with specific responsibility for the safety and health of workers.
The framework directive provides for relevant information to be received by workers and/or their representatives (Article 10(1)), and for workers with specific functions in protecting the safety and health of workers or worker representatives with specific responsibility for the safety and health of workers to ‘have access, to carry out their functions and in accordance with national laws and/or practices,’ to specified information (Article 10(3)). Employers have to meet the expense of supplying information to workers in accordance with the directive’s requirements.
In addition, EC law prescribes a variety of provisions for different categories of persons with health and safety functions. For ‘designated workers’ given functions with respect to protective and preventive services (such as first aid, fire-fighting, evacuation of workers, etc.), the directive specifies that workers get adequate time and the ‘necessary capabilities and the necessary means’ to enable them to fulfil their obligations. The directive also imposes an obligation on employers to provide safety personnel with facilities and assistance.
‘General’ worker representatives, consulted on planning and introduction of new technologies (Article 6(3)(c), or on ‘all questions relating to safety and health at work’ (Article 11(1)), are to receive information (Article 10(1)), which should ‘in no circumstances involve the workers in financial cost’ (Article 6(5)).
Given their ‘specific role in protecting the safety and health of workers’, both ‘general’ worker representatives and worker representatives with specific responsibility for the safety and health of workers are entitled to ‘appropriate training’, which ‘may not be at (their) expense’ (Article 12(3) and (4)). As regards training, as it must take place during working hours and is not to be at the workers’ expense, it is at least paid time off. But there may be additional expenses associated with training, for example, if it takes place away from the establishment or undertaking. The implication of the directive is that that these costs are to be borne by the employer.
See also: Framework Directive on health and safety.