I lead a sad life. It’s almost 11.20 on a Sunday night and I’m asking a question about HR.

Under The Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 and The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 only Trades Unions can appoint Safety Representatives and they can do this whether the employer wishes them to or not and indeed they can appoint as many safety Representatives as they want. These Safety Representatives have a statutory right to be paid for their Safety work and have some exclusive rights not granted to any other worker which can be carried out if the Safety Representative decides that they want to. The employer has no right to terminate an appointment.

It is not clear to me who the Safety Representative actually represents. It is a union appointment so presumably he represents all members of the union whether they want him to or not but it does not state (as far as I am aware) whether or not they represent non-union employees and whether this representation can be imposed by the union or not. Paragraph 3 of the 1996 Regulations speaks of "employees who are not represented ny safety representatives under the 1977 Regulations" but does not define how they may find themselves in this position. The HSE talks about if "there are any employees who do not belong to a trade union and recognised trade unions have not agreed to represent them." Does this mean in their opinion that if the union says, "we will represent all employees" then it doesn’t matter what the employees think, the decision has been made for them. And what happens if, for example there are 500 employees in a company and only one member of a recognised union. If the employees have formed a health and safety committee, can the union dissolve it by appointing their member to represent the entire workforce. And if he is lazy or incompetent, have they any redress?

This legislation seems absolutely idiotic to me because it has been written from a corporatist mindset. It appears to give unions great powers even though the employees don’t want them to have them.

So can anyone tell me, if a union appoints a Safety Representative who claims to represent the whole of the workforce then can this claim be rejected. And if a Safety Representatives are appointed and they exercise their right to form a safety committee, can the employer say that the Safety Representatives and the committee have the right to make inspections and representations to the employer but that the committee which actually makes decisions is separate to it and its members are appointed under the employer’s rules?