Health and safety representatives (HSRs)
Health and safety representatives (HSRs) are new to NSW and play an important role in representing the health and safety interests of workers in a work group. In a national review, HSRs were identified as a key contributor to health and safety in the workplace by providing access to the views of workers.
The role of an HSR is to facilitate the flow of information about health and safety between the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU – the new term that includes employers) and the workers in their work group. They represent workers on health and safety matters through ongoing consultation and cooperation between workers of a work group and a PCBU.
The powers and functions of an HSR are to:
- represent workers in a work group on work health and safety (WHS) matters
- monitor WHS actions taken by the PCBU
- investigate WHS complaints from workers of the work group
- look into anything that might be a risk to the WHS of the workers they represent.
If an HSR has completed approved HSR training, they can exercise additional powers:
- to direct unsafe work to stop when they have a reasonable concern that carrying out the work would expose a worker to a serious risk
- to issue a ‘Provisional Improvement Notice’ (PIN) when they reasonably believe there is a contravention of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act).
HSRs provide benefits to workers and PCBUs by fostering consultation.
Request for election of a health and safety representative (HSR)
When a worker requests an election for an HSR(s), the PCBU (includes employers) must facilitate the determination of the work groups.
Election process for a health and safety representative (HSR)
When agreement has been reached on the number of work groups and HSRs (and deputy HSRs), the PCBU (includes employers) must provide any reasonable resources, facilities and help that may be required to conduct the election.
All workers who have been nominated are eligible to be elected as an HSR or deputy HSR for their defined work group.
PCBU obligations to health and safety representatives (HSRs)
PCBUs (includes employers) should provide support for the HSR and must:
- allow the HSR adequate time at normal pay to carry out their role
- consult and confer with the HSR on work health and safety issues (eg when proposing measures to eliminate or minimise risks)
- allow the HSR access to information about hazards and risks at the workplace as well as information relating to the health and safety of workers at the workplace (excluding workers’ personal medical information without the workers’ consent)
- allow the HSR to be present at an interview relating to work health and safety issues if a worker consents
- provide the resources, facilities and assistance that are reasonably necessary for them to perform their functions
- allow any person assisting the HSR, access to the workplace as necessary
- permit the HSR to accompany an inspector on an inspection.