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Unsafe to exclude safety representative

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Legal news
calendar 18 June 2023
globus Sweden

A safety representative at a stevedoring company in Gothenburg was not allowed to participate in a risk assessment or the planning of measures in a project. He claimed his role as a safety representative was not observed by the company. The Labour Court found that the company had partially prevented him from performing his duties by not involving him.

A safety representative was elected on behalf of a union. During the autumn he was not allowed to participate in the planning of reorganization of a project. Instead, he was allowed to participate after a few months.

Later, the safety representative was not allowed to participate in a risk assessment when the company dismantled a fence at the workplace. The fence was replaced by lumps of concrete, which was not standard practice, because of the risk of trucks rolling over.

Better late than never

The Labour Court found that the safety representative had partially been prevented from performing his duties. As a result, the company had to pay compensation to the union and the safety representative.  

In the first incident, the safety representative should have been informed of the proposed reorganization months earlier. However, as he had not been prevented from performing his duties it was not a breach of the rules. The reason was that he had been able to give his input on the planned reorganization before any measures had been taken.

In the second incident, the court found that the company should have included the safety representative. Before dismantling the fence, the company had made a risk assessment and taken precautions to ensure the traffic at the workplace. Consequently, the work environment had been impacted in a manner that had entitled the safety representative to be involved.

IUNO’s opinion

Companies with more than five employees must appoint a safety representative. This representative can be elected by a local union or by the employees. To avoid claims for compensation and fines, this safety representative must be involved whenever assessing the impact of any change in the work environment.

IUNO recommends that companies involve safety representatives at an early stage in changes or new developments in the workplace. Safety representatives should be given the opportunity to represent employees in health and safety issues.

[The Swedish Labour Court’s decision of 31 May 2023 in case 34/23]

A safety representative was elected on behalf of a union. During the autumn he was not allowed to participate in the planning of reorganization of a project. Instead, he was allowed to participate after a few months.

Later, the safety representative was not allowed to participate in a risk assessment when the company dismantled a fence at the workplace. The fence was replaced by lumps of concrete, which was not standard practice, because of the risk of trucks rolling over.

Better late than never

The Labour Court found that the safety representative had partially been prevented from performing his duties. As a result, the company had to pay compensation to the union and the safety representative.  

In the first incident, the safety representative should have been informed of the proposed reorganization months earlier. However, as he had not been prevented from performing his duties it was not a breach of the rules. The reason was that he had been able to give his input on the planned reorganization before any measures had been taken.

In the second incident, the court found that the company should have included the safety representative. Before dismantling the fence, the company had made a risk assessment and taken precautions to ensure the traffic at the workplace. Consequently, the work environment had been impacted in a manner that had entitled the safety representative to be involved.

IUNO’s opinion

Companies with more than five employees must appoint a safety representative. This representative can be elected by a local union or by the employees. To avoid claims for compensation and fines, this safety representative must be involved whenever assessing the impact of any change in the work environment.

IUNO recommends that companies involve safety representatives at an early stage in changes or new developments in the workplace. Safety representatives should be given the opportunity to represent employees in health and safety issues.

[The Swedish Labour Court’s decision of 31 May 2023 in case 34/23]

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

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Alexandra

Jensen

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

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Aurora Braut Bache

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Hessellund Klausen

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