Health and safety in the energy sector
The energy sector has a proud history and this includes safety, not surprisingly given the inherent dangers of generating, transmitting and distributing sources of power. The 'Union Safety Effect' is key to safeguarding workers and the general public and our reps have long been very active.
'Health' however has historically been a weaker partner. There are epidemiological surveys with long-term medical monitoring of cohorts of workers who may have been exposed to specific hazards. But reps do not share with other sectors the same experience of tackling contemporary health problems such as stress-related ill health, fatigue, work-life balance and the effects of shift work. This can change.
The sector resources some excellent occupational health practitioners who are actively implementing a range of innovative initiatives, many of which constitute best practice within the UK. Our task therefore is to ensure our H&S Reps are active and competent participants in health and in safety.
Worker involvement in the Energy Sector
The sector has some very good standards of involvement, particularly in respect of union H&S reps. Good practice includes:
- agreeing programmes of joint health and safety inspections or surveys
- jointly investigating accidents, incidents, complaints and ill health – subject to Data Protection requirements and agreement about the role the union representative is fulfilling.
- trade union H&S rep training being supplemented with company bespoke training, in one company jointly with middle managers.
The sector also has a long history of consulting its employees, typically via long-established statutory consultation committees. However their effectiveness and coherence is open to question. Our efforts to communicate the Powering Improvement strategy and messages have highlighted disconnects between national and local HESACs and uncertainty about the consultation structures and arrangements within the member companies.
Within member companies a range of committees exist, either reflecting historic company structures, regions or a mixture of these. Some member companies themselves lack certainty about their own ‘map’ of committees and how they interact.
The emergence and growing use of contractors and subcontractors adds to a fragmentation that challenges communications within the sector. Evidence suggests that few of these companies have consultation arrangements in place.
National HESAC has agreed: that member companies revisit and map their worker involvement arrangements to ensure they meet at least the statutory minimum requirements contained in HSE publications L146 and HSG263.
What it looks like....
...when done effectively
...when done badly or not at all
- how to do a job safely
- how safely to use new equipment
Each year has a specific theme identified as a priority area for the sector. Below are links to selected tools and evidence generated by the project and likely to be of value to Prospect reps:
- 2010 Leadership
- 2011 Occupational health/wellbeing - health needs assessment tool and OH case studies
- 2012 Asset management/ maintenance - managing organisational change, competency framework, review of past incidents, HSE on asset management and Texas City presentation
- 2013 Behavioural safety/personal responsibility
- 2014 Beyond 2015 – Next steps
SECTOR safety alerts
These pages are work in progress. Please send info, comments, ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org