Hazards banner

Organising 101

Union activist and prominent safety campaigner Dave Smith gives useful tips and iron clad examples of effective union organising methods more



Bright sparks
Health and safety wasn’t handed to us on a plate by benevolent employers or far-sighted politicians, says Hazards organising expert Dave Smith. For centuries, workers fought for safer workplaces. ‘Builder’s crack’, a newly rediscovered film, reveals how sharing our organising successes and strategies is safety critical.
Hazards 151, November 2020

Find a friend
A workplace may be seriously unhealthy, but it’s frequently only budgets, deadlines and margins in the must-do column for senior management. Dave Smith warns a solitary union rep quoting Hazards magazine is unlikely to change that. A lone voice is easy to ignore, particularly when the company board is more fixated on a healthy profit than a healthy workforce.
Hazards 137, March 2017

Get mapping
In a unionised workplace, one of the first things that you should consider is mapping. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson says mapping can identify the workplace union’s strengths and weaknesses, and the hazards hurting your members, leaving you prepared to organise for safer, healthier work.
Hazards 134, April-June 2016

Safety in numbers
There are about 100,000 union safety reps countrywide. And there are many thousands of workers alive today because of the work they do. The TUC’s Hugh Robertson says the union body is launching a new organising drive with this life-saving union effect at its core.
Hazards 133, January-March 2016

Road block
Junior doctors closed the road outside Downing Street. Firefighters brought traffic to a standstill in Parliament Square. Site workers shut down Park Lane. Dave Smith explains why blocking roads has become a great way to make bad employers change direction.
Hazards 133, January-March 2016

You know best
Workers are best placed to see the hazards in their workplace and, when they have a voice and power, to take action to prevent illness and injury. A Hazards photofile shows how to take control at work.
Hazards 131 photofile, September 2015

Turn it on
With the government set to implement more anti-trade union laws and further attack workers’ rights, your best defence is to be organised and active. Mick Holder of the train drivers’ union ASLEF spells out how union health and safety reps can fight back.
Hazards 131 special online report, September 2015

We're here to stay!
The government’s Trade Union Bill could put our lives at risk. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady says David Cameron’s plan would rob union safety reps of the rights and time they need to perform their role – so she says it has never been more important to get serious and get organised.
Hazards 131 special online report, September 2015

Don't die waiting
The law is being undermined. The law enforcer has been gutted. The only guarantee you have of health and safety at work is union protection – and latest evidence confirms organised workplaces are substantially safer.
Hazards 115, July-September 2011

Safety respect
Is it possible to take a dysfunctional workplace with high levels of assaults, sickness and poor morale and in less than a year make it a haven of safety and worker contentment, with managers respecting and valuing the union role? Union rep Mark White explains how they achieved just that in his workplace.
Hazards 107, July-September 2009

Don’t be a safety nerd
Workers join unions because they are concerned about safety, and stay in unions for the same reason. That’s why training trade union safety reps in the links between safety and organisation is a top priority for TUC.
Hazards 102, May 2008

Organise! Organised workplaces may be safer workplaces, but good organisation doesn’t happen by chance. A new Hazards pin-up-at-work poster give safety reps an at-a-glance guide to a giving the workplace a union safety organisation health check.
Hazards 94, May 2006

Get safe, get organised
Union workplaces are safer, healthier places for a reason – because union organisation keeps them that way. If unions are going to effectively fight hazards, then they should first know both the arguments and know their strength.
Hazards 92, November 2005

Union solution
Work is not what it used to be. You are more likely to be serving in shops than serving up ships, tapping out keystrokes than tipping out coal. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson says changing union safety strategies are needed for a changing working world.
Hazards 92, October-December 2005 Buy Hazards

Develop an organising action plan
Develop an action plan webpage
and Organizing action sheet guide MassCOSH, USA.

TUC health and safety organising webpages
TUC says health and safety is a top reason people join unions and people stay in unions. Health and safety is a particularly effective organising tool.
TUC organising webpages

Organising for health and safety
This TUC resource is designed to help reps achieve more active membership, with more safety representatives. who can make real real gains and help create a greater culture of safety in the workplace. Organising for health and safety: A TUC guide for use in the workplace [pdf]

You slip, trip, fall you are exposed to toxic chemicals. You lift, carry, you get strains. You are stressed to the eyeballs. All this and the law says you should be safe and healthy at work. Hazards looks at how safety reps can organise to close the reality gap on workplace safety.
Hazards 74, April-June 2001[pdf]

Safety reps at work
Union safety reps have a dramatic, positive impact on safety at work - and the more training they get, the more marked the "union safety effect." Hazards reports how the union training on your doorstep and now in cyberspace can be a workplace lifesaver.
Safety reps at work

Not what we bargained for
The economy is buoyant, but we work harder for less pay. We know more about hazards and their control, but work-related stress, strains, depression and violence are soaring. We have never been more productive, and we are rewarded with temporary contracts, long hours and back breaking workloads. Hazards lists the top 20 questions union reps should ask on workplace change and gives pointers on a better way to work.
Hazards 69, January-March 2000

Hazards mapping links
The "Hazards detective" online guide helps you make the links the doctors and the safety officers miss. From fatigue to depression, drug use to violence, the Hazards "worked over" online guide helps you examine the 24/7/365 hazards that can come with the job.
Hazards mapping links

Union effect
Hazards shows why safety is better organised. Here it presents the evidence and details of innovative union safety rep initiatives including "roving" and regional reps and new style global agreements including health, safety and environmental clauses. Union effect

Hazards safety reps webpage
The one-stop-shop for union health and safety reps with resources, rights, news, training, links and features. safety reps webpage

Safety reps' news Latest safety news for health and safety reps

Organising news

Britain: Union pilots and firefighters link up to train
Members of The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have completed a new, innovative and first of its kind training collaboration, which the they say paves the way for future training co-operation between unions. For the first time ever, union reps from the two safety critical fields of aviation and firefighting came together to share experiences and learn new skills that will enable them to help union members tackle health and safety issues in the workplace.
BALPA news release. Risks 1037. 24 March 2022

USA: Hitech monitoring is getting under our skin
New technologies are being used to monitor employers’ behaviour at work – and potentially outside the workplace. Contract cleaners working for a property management company in the US are being required to upload a Labor Sync app to their personal mobile phones, which uses GPS to monitor both their whereabouts and working hours.
The Guardian. LaborSync app. Risks 836. 10 February 2018

Britain: Organising around health and safety just got easier
A brand new TUC ‘eNote’ is now available to anyone who wants to make their workplace safer through building a strong union. TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said: “An eNote is a great resource to help representatives get a good grasp of an issue and this one is a self-contained module that contains a mixture of text, video and quizzes that you can work through.”
Register for TUC eNotes. TUC Stronger Unions blog. TUC health and safety organising guide. Risks 784. 21 January 2017

Britain: Mapping out the union route to better safety
In a unionised workplace, one of the first things that you should consider is mapping the organisational and safety landscape, the TUC has said. The union body’s head of safety, Hugh Robertson, says mapping can identify the workplace union’s strengths and weaknesses and the hazards hurting the people doing the job, leaving the union better equipped to organise for safer, healthier work.
Get mapping, Hugh Robertson, Hazards, number 134, June 2016. Health and safety and organising - A guide for reps, TUC, 2016, available in pdf and e-book versions.
Also see Strength in numbers, Hugh Robertson, Hazards, number 133, March 2016. Risks 756. 25 June 2016

Britain: TUC health and safety and organising guide
The TUC says an effective union needs two things: the first is a strong membership within the workplace; the second is high membership involvement. By encouraging members to participate, much more can be achieved than if members expect the union to ‘sort things out’.
TUC publication alert. Health and safety and organising - A guide for reps, TUC, March 2016, pdf and e-book versions. Risks 741. 5 March 2016

Britain: Your best defence at work is to be organised
With the government intent on introducing more anti-trade union laws and continuing its attack on workers’ rights and essential safety protections, your best defence at work is to be organised and active, according to Mick Holder of the train drivers’ union ASLEF. In a pep talk for safety reps in the new issue of Hazards magazine, he spells out how union health and safety reps can ‘turn it on’, using their rights and organising power to protect and improve workplace health and safety.
Turn it on!, Hazards magazine, number 131, 2015. TUC health and safety organisation webpages. Risks 721. 26 September 2015

Britain: A creative guide to organising for safety
Dave Smith’s long history as a workplace safety activist, union safety rep and trade union health and safety tutor has meant he’s heard many union reps relate inspiring examples of the most creative ways to get a workplace safety message across. And now he’s writing them down, in a regular ‘Organising 101’ column in Hazards magazine. Organising 101: Dave Smith's guide to organising. Risks 721. 26 September 2015

Britain: Unite organises for good, safe work
Improving health and safety at work requires organisation, solidarity and political awareness, the union Unite has said. General secretary Len McCluskey said these “three pillars” apply to all of Unite’s activities.
Unite health and safety guide [pdf] • Risks 520 27 August 2011

Britain: UNISON pushes organisation on safety
Public sector union UNISON is putting health and safety at the centre of a recruitment and organising drive. General secretary Dave Prentis says the union’s new ‘Organising for health and safety’ guide is part of a strategy “to turn UNISON into a genuinely organising union.”
Organising for health and safety: a UNISON guide [pdf] • TUC health and safety organising pagesRisks 51511 June 2011

Britain: Organising for health and safety
The difference between knowing something is bad for your health, and getting something done about amounts to a big ‘O’ – Organisation. That’s why TUC’s safety strategy has union organisation at the centre. With four new guides, available in print and online, set out “to show how union organisers, at both national and local level, can use health and safety as a tool in a campaigsn for union recognition as well as to develop activists and grow the union in already organised workplaces.”
TUC publication alertTUC health and safety organisation webpages
Organising for health and safety: A workplace resource [pdf]
Organising for health and safety: Safety reps course [pdf]
Organising for health and safety: Union officers course [pdf].
Organising for health and safety: What makes health and safety a good organising issue? [pdf]
Risks 37818 October 2009

Canada: Work refusals win safety assurances
Workers who refused to work at Canadian firm IMP Aerospace because of concerns over safety returned to the job this week after receiving a commitment their complaints would be addressed. The workers, members of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), had refused to start work at the IMP facility at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.
CAW news reportThe Chronicle HeraldGlobe and Mail • CAW Right to refuseRisks 37711 October 2009

Britain: TUC Organising at Work guide
It’s unions that brought you the weekend, safer workplaces, shorter hours, better wages and leave entitlements and greater equality at work. But winning and maintaining better working conditions is only a possibility if people are organised – and that means unions recruiting new members and increasing the effectiveness of organised workplaces.
Organising at work - Building stronger unions in the workplace [pdf] • Risks 37130 August 2008

Global: Around the world in a training daze
Fiona Murie has trained thousands of safety reps and has got – literally - a world of experience. As director of health and safety for the Building Workers’ International, an umbrella group of unions in the sector with over 12 million members in 135 countries, she has worked with affliates worldwide and concludes: “It is not so much about the technical knowledge, it’s about organising.”
Hazards magazineBWI websiteRisks 357 24 May 2008

Britain: Get trained, get organised, get safe!
Training trade union safety reps in the links between workplace safety and union organisation is a top priority for TUC. Liz Rees, head of TUC’s education service, made this plain in a new interview with the trade union safety magazine Hazards.
Don’t be a safety nerd, Hazards, Number 102, pages 20-21, 2008 • Risks 35724 May 2008

Australia: Court backs union safety notice
A state government department in Victoria, Australia, that ignored an improvement notice issued by a union safety rep has been successfully prosecuted. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development had ignored a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) issued by the safety rep.
More VTHC news release • Hazards safety reps webpages • 11 August 2007

Britain: Unions think of new ways to work
The TUC is appealing to academics from the UK and across the world to sign up to a new, free information sharing network. The Union Ideas Network, launched on 24 April, plans to bring together researchers, policy makers and trade unions with the aim of breathing fresh ideas into the union movement, and has an explicit health and safety section.
Union Ideas NetworkUIN health and safety section

Australia: Fifteen things you should know safety
If you thought knowing about risks and laws was the key to making your workplace safe, think again. The first thing you need to know is how as a union you can get the organisation and influence to put things right, according to a 15 point checklist for union reps.
Risks 24418 February 2006

Britain: Health and safety is better organised
TUC’s new organising strategy for health and safety has won backing from top union leaders.
Risks 2353 December 2005





Organised workplaces may be safer workplaces, but good organisation doesn’t happen by chance.

Related Hazards pages

Organising news

Organising 101: Dave Smith's guide to organising

Union effectSafety reps

Graphic: Ned Jolliffe


More Hazards posters