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Representation and consultation on health and safety in chemicals: An exploration of limits to the preferred model

David Walters (School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Theo Nichols (School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 1 May 2006




The purpose of this paper is to examine the effectiveness of worker representation and consultation on occupational health and safety in the UK in a context in which, following the 1977 Safety Representatives and Safety Committees (SRSC) Regulations 1977, recognised trade unions have the right to appoint health and safety representatives who have rights to representation and consultation and to access the training and facilities needed to support these activities.


The chemical industry is the chosen site for this enquiry, because, it offers some of the most propitious conditions in which to examine the operation of what has been the preferred model in UK health and safety regulation, namely those in which there are recognised trade unions and where there are likely to be systems and structures of industrial relations in place combined with arrangements for OHS management. Five establishments are examined.


The research suggests joint arrangements make for better safety outcomes and that there is a relation between management consultation on general issues and those of health and safety. Overall, though, management capacity and commitment pose considerable constraints to employee representation on health and safety. The SRSC regulations apply in all five cases but worker representation operated below the level to be expected from the regulations.

Practical implications

A stronger legislative steer on worker consultation and representation in respect of workplace health and safety is required.


Demonstrates that, even in an apparently propitious environment, legal requirements are not being implemented, and that management commitment and support are vital.



Walters, D. and Nichols, T. (2006), "Representation and consultation on health and safety in chemicals: An exploration of limits to the preferred model", Employee Relations, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 230-254.



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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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