IUF Briefing Note:

Roving Safety Representatives in Agriculture

Why are roving safety representatives important?
Small numbers of workers are often employed in many agricultural undertakings scattered over wide geographical distances. Normal arrangements for health and safety representation are difficult to apply. It is therefore necessary to introduce a scheme based on external worker representatives who will visit agricultural undertakings in a given area.

What is a roving safety representative?
She/he is a representative/delegate of workers who has access to and visits agricultural workplaces to represent the health and safety interests/concerns of workers.

What is their relationship to the workplaces they visit?
They are appointed from outside the workplaces. In Sweden, for example, they can be safety reps working in larger undertakings who assume responsibility for neighbouring, smaller enterprises. Alternatively they might work full-time for a trade union. In Sweden, they are referred to as regional representatives.

Who chooses them?
They are appointed by trade unions.

What do they do?
Their overall objective is to stimulate and support local health and safety activity with a view to reducing hazards, accidents, ill health and fatalities in agriculture. Typically both roving and ordinary, safety representative will: Represent workers' interests by improving consultation procedures and promoting worker participation, Inspect workplaces and identify hazards, Try to improve occupational health and safety management.

Will they have legal rights?
Yes they will have legal rights when the convention is ratified and implemented by a member country.

Do any roving safety representative systems already exist?
Yes, statutory provisions for roving (regional) safety representatives exist in:
• all industries in Sweden;
• the construction industry in Norway,
• certain sectors in Italy.

Experimental systems are being implemented in:
• the UK
• Spain.

Which agricultural workplaces would roving safety representatives visit?
Agricultural workplaces with small numbers of workers.

How does the system of roving safety representatives function?
Experience shows that they work informally and co-operatively, and maintain a good relationship with workers and employers. They stimulate worker participation in health and safety and assist in improving health and safety management.

What are the benefits?

To government:
studies show that all types of safety representatives save lives. They are intermediaries who complement and support the work of labour inspectors at a local level in a cost-effective manner.

To employers:
evidence shows that roving safety representatives stimulate and improve occupational health and safety management through worker participation. This in turn leads to qualitative improvement in the management of business performance overall, not only in individual small enterprises but that of other organisations with which they have economic relationships.

To workers: workers will benefit directly because of improved health, safety and welfare conditions. They will be encouraged to participate in health and safety at the workplace and will have health and safety support from an experienced workers' representative.

What will a roving safety representative cost?
Any roving safety representative scheme requires resources. However, evidence from other countries shows that the schemes are not a costly way of improving health and safety in the workplace. Indeed, the benefits from reduced accidents and ill health will outweigh the costs of such a scheme.