What Are Health & Safety Representatives & Committees

What Are Health & Safety Representatives & Committees?

HSR (health and safety representative) and HSC (health and safety committee) give workers the opportunity to have a say in workplace safety and health matters. They also allow workers to be involved through consultation and participation.

Representatives for safety and health

A health and safety representative (HSR), is responsible for representing the safety and health interests of workgroups and raising any concerns with their employer. After consultation, negotiation, and agreement between the worker and their employer or other persons who are involved in a business or undertaking (PCBU), there can be as many HSRs or deputy HSRs as necessary.

What are the powers of a health and safety representative?

HSRs are usually limited to their work group, unless:

  • Workers from other work groups may be at risk of serious injury or death due to an immediate hazard.
  • A worker from another work group requests the HSR’s help. The HSR for that workgroup is unavailable.

The following tasks are available to elected health and safety representatives:

  • Workplace inspections
  • Review the circumstances surrounding workplace incidents
  • A WHSQ inspector will accompany you during an inspection
  • Represent the work group on safety and health matters
  • Attend an interview regarding safety and health with a worker in the work group (with consent from the worker).
  • Request that a safety and health committee be formed
  • Participate in a safety and health committee
  • Monitor compliance measures
  • Investigate work safety and health complaints made by members of your workgroup
  • Ask about any potential dangers to the safety and health of employees in the workgroup
  • Issue provisional improvement notices to direct workers to stop unsafe work (where HSR has completed approved training).

The HSR is not responsible for any actions or inactions they make while performing their duties. To have an HSR disqualified, any person who is adversely affected can contact the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

What is a Workgroup?

A workgroup is a group that shares a common work situation. The HSR represents the safety and health interests of those workers. To elect one or more HSRs, a worker or group can contact the PCBU where they work to request this information.

What number of work groups are possible?

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 permits one or more work groups to be established at every workplace. Based on factors like:

  • The nature of the risks and hazards of the work being done
  • The areas that are subject to work
  • When work is done.

For a complete list of factors, refer to section 17 of Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011(WHS Regulation).

Worker groups should be organized in a way that allows for the best representation of their safety and health interests. Each worker should have easy access to the HSR.

A manufacturing company might decide to have two work groups because of the safety and health risks that each group poses.

  • One that includes all employees in the office
  • The other is made up of all workers in manufacturing.

A workgroup could also include workers from the same trade or all-night workers. Workers from different businesses can work together in the same group if they agree. This could include:

  • Contractors
  • labour-hire staff
  • Outworkers
  • apprentices.

How is it possible to elect health and safety representatives?

Election and eligibility

Each member of a workgroup can elect their HSR. The workgroup members can vote and the PCBU must support the election.

A person cannot be elected unless they are a member or not disqualified from serving as an HSR. The same procedure is used to elect a deputy HSR.

An HSR/deputy HSR’s term is three years. They are removed from office when:

  • They leave the workplace
  • They are not eligible to be an HSR
  • They resign as an HSR
  • The majority of the members agree that the person should not be their representative.

HSRs may be re-elected. When the number of candidates exceeds the number of vacancies, elections are not necessary.

Negotiating for an HSR

The PCBU must initiate negotiations with workers within 14 days after receiving a request for an HSR election. These negotiations will determine:

  • Number and composition of workgroups at the workplace
  • Number of HSRs and HSRs Deputy
  • Workplace(s), to which the workgroup(s), applies.

The worker’s representative must be included in a PCBU (e.g. If the worker asks, the PCBU must include a worker’s representative (e.g. Workers must be notified by the PCBU as soon as possible about the outcome of negotiations. The parties to a workgroup agreement can negotiate a variation at any time.

Any party to negotiations can request an inspector to help with the process.

What training is required for a safety and health representative?

All HSRs must complete the approved training course within three months of their election. The worker who fails to complete the training course within the specified time frame will not be eligible for the HSR role and will be required to be replaced.

Safety and health committees

The creation and implementation of safety and health measures at work can be made easier by the cooperation between workers and employers through safety and health committees. This includes rules and procedures that apply to the workplace and health and safety standards.

What is the process of establishing safety and health committees?

A PCBU or employer must establish health- and safety committee (HSC), within two months after being asked by an HSR or five workers at work, or as required by the WHS Regulation.

If they wish, a PCBU can also create an HSC.

An HSC must have at least half its members from workers who were not nominated by a PCBU. An HSR can consent to be a member of the committee. If a workplace has multiple HSRs, it can choose to have one or more members.

Any person who is a member of the committee can request an inspector to help with this process.

The HSC must meet at most once every three months, and at reasonable times upon request by at least half the members.

What role does the employer play?

The employer or PCBU must:

  • Discuss safety and health issues at work with the HSRs in your workgroup.
  • All reasonable costs to attend the relevant courses that HSR requests
  • Provide resources, facilities, and assistance for the HSR in order to allow them to perform their functions
  • Allow an HSR to use their entitlements during normal working hours
  • Keep a current list of all HSRs, and any deputy HSRs, and keep one at work.
  • Use the Notification of Health and Safety Representative portal to notify WHSQ of any HSRs.

Please provide the following information:

  • Name of HSR
  • Name of the workgroup
  • Contact phone number
  • Work address
  • Email address
  • date elected
  • Copy of any HSR provisional improvement notice for your workplace and details about its status (i.e. completed, withdrawn, ongoing).

You must provide a copy as soon as possible after the notice has been issued.

PCBUs can use the Notification of Health and Safety Representative portal to notify WHSQ of HSR/s at their workplace.

Access to information that is held by a PCBU can be made available to HSRs. It can relate to:

  • Workplace hazards and associated risks that affect workers in the workgroup
  • The safety and health of workers within the workgroup.

A current list of safety and health representatives

Section 74 of 2011’s Work Health and Safety Act states that any person who conducts a business or undertaking must ensure that a current list of health and representative and deputy health and safety representatives for the undertaking or business is kept current. The current list must be kept up-to-date and displayed in a manner that makes it easily accessible to the workers of the relevant work group.

  • at the main place of business for the company or undertaking
  • Any other workplace that is suitable, taking into consideration the composition of the relevant work group.

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