Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) – coming to a workplace near you
In recent times, Queensland businesses have seen a large increase in the participation of employees undertaking voluntary roles as Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs). Therefore, it is important to understand how these positions are filled and what roles and powers employees can exercise in the workplace.
The legislative framework for HSRs is contained within the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011.
Members of their own workgroup elect HSRs for a term of three (3) years. If requested, a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), or the employer, must provide resources and assistance to conduct elections.
A `workgroup’ refers to a group of employees who share a similar work function or activity.
An elected HSR has the legal right to undertake the following tasks in relation to their workgroup:
Conduct workplace inspections;
Review workplace incidents;
Accompany a WHSQ inspector during an inspection;
Represent the workgroup in health and safety matters;
With the consent of a worker, attend an interview about health and safety matters;
Request the establishment of a safety committee, and participate in the committee;
Monitor compliance measures;
Investigate work health and safety complaints from the workgroup;
Inquire into any risk to the health and safety in the workgroup; and
Issue Provisional improvement notices (PIN) and direct a worker to cease unsafe work.
All HSRs must undertake an initial five day training course within three months of their election, with a one day refresher course every three years.
Once elected, the HSR holds the office until they either leave the workgroup, are disqualified from being an HSR, resign from the role, or the majority of members of the workgroup agree the person should no longer represent them.
Employers are encouraged to view HSRs as being of benefit to the workplace. It is recommended that a cordial relationship is maintained at all times, with positive communication flows both ways and prompt attention given to and action taken to address issues raised by the HSR. It is also recommended to remind the HSR that the role is ancillary to their primary function and to discuss the expectations regarding the amount of time they can spend away from their normal job when fulfilling the HSR role.
Communication between Employers and HSRs must be open; however, it is best resolved to writing through emails, forms, meeting notes etc. Employers must be alert to any allegations of intimidation, bullying, or adverse action against Managers or HSRs.
There are no restrictions on the number of HSRs that can be elected within a workplace. Generally, it should be linked to factors such as the size of the workforce, the diversity of tasks undertaken, and the type of work undertaken, particularly if classified as `high risk’ work.
For questions about HSRs, safety, or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 WAL LAW, 0417 622 178 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.