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Health and safety reps in COVID-19: representation unleashed?

Health and safety reps in COVID-19: representation unleashed?

Moore, Sian, Cai, Minjie ORCID: 0000-0003-1739-0474, Ball, Chris ORCID: 0000-0001-7743-4577 and Flynn, Matt (2023) Health and safety reps in COVID-19: representation unleashed? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20 (8):5551. pp. 1-18. ISSN 1661-7827 (Print), 1660-4601 (Online) (doi:

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The paper explores the role of UK union health and safety representatives and changes to representative structures governing workplace and organisational Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) during COVID-19. It draws upon a survey of 648 UK Trade Union Congress (TUC) Health and Safety (H&S) representatives, as well as case studies of 12 organisations in eight key sectors. The survey indicates expanded union H&S representation, but only half of the respondents reported H&S committees in their organisations. Where formal representative mechanisms existed, they provided the basis for more informal day-to-day engagement between management and the union. However, the present study suggests that the legacy of deregulation and the absence of organisational infrastructures meant that the autonomous collective representation of workers’ interests over OHS, independent of structures, was crucial to risk prevention. While joint regulation and engagement over OHS was possible in some workplaces, OHS in the pandemic has been contested. Contestation challenges pre-COVID-19 scholarship suggesting that H&S representatives had been captured by management in the context of unitarist practice. The tension between union power and the wider legal infrastructure remains salient

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article belongs to the Special Issue State-of-the-Art of Occupational Safety and Health in UK.
Uncontrolled Keywords: COVID-19; occupational health and safety; trade unions; worker representation; joint committees
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW)
Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW) > Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU)
Faculty of Business > Department of Human Resources & Organisational Behaviour
Faculty of Business > Marketing Research Group (MRG)
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2023 13:54

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