Self-regulation of health and safety in a local authority with particular reference to safety representatives, supervisors and safety committees
The Report of the Robens Committee (1972), the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (1977) provide the framework within which this study of certain aspects of health and safety is carried out. The philosophy of self-regulation is considered and its development is set within an historical and an industrial relations perspective. The research uses a case study approach to examine the effectiveness of self-regulation in health and safety in a public sector organisation. Within this approach, methodological triangulation employs the techniques of interviews, questionnaires, observation and documentary analysis. The work is based in four departments of a Scottish Local Authority and particular attention is given to three of the main 'agents' of self-regulation - safety representatives, supervisors and safety committees and their interactions, strategies and effectiveness. A behavioural approach is taken in considering the attitudes, values, motives and interactions of safety representatives and management. Major internal and external factors, which interact and which influence the effectiveness of joint self-regulation of health and safety, are identified. It is emphasised that an organisation cannot be studied without consideration of the context within which it operates both locally and in the wider environment. One of these factors, organisational structure, is described as bureaucratic and the model of a Representative Bureaucracy described by Gouldner (1954) is compared with findings from the present study. An attempt is made to ascertain how closely the Local Authority fits Gouldner's model. This research contributes both to knowledge and to theory in the subject area by providing an in-depth study of self-regulation in a public sector organisation, which when compared with such studies as those of Beaumont (1980, 1981, 1982) highlights some of the differences between the public and private sectors. Both empirical data and hypothetical models are used to provide description and explanation of the operation of the health and safety system in the Local Authority. As data were collected during a dynamic period in economic, political and social terms, the research discusses some of the effects of the current economic recession upon safety organisation.