FAQs - OSH committee

This page contains frequently asked questions about safety and health committees.

When should a safety and health committee be established?

A safety and health committee should be established if an employee requests a committee, the employer decides to establish one, or if there is a regulation requiring one to be established. The WorkSafe Western Australia Commissioner (Commissioner) can also direct the establishment of a committee.

An employer may refer the question of whether a safety and health committee should be established to the Commissioner. The Commissioner will make a determination and notify the employer and any relevant employees of the decision. 

How is a safety and health committee established?

A safety and health committee (committee) must be established in the way agreed between the employer, employee representatives and any safety and health representatives. If agreement cannot be reached, the dispute should be referred to the Commissioner for determination.

Workplaces can appoint their own committee members, provided the committee is made up of half, or more, worker representatives. The committee may include elected safety and health representatives and also may have other workers elected by the workers to represent them. Other members can be employers and/or the employer representatives. It can also be helpful to have committee members who are able to action and/or facilitate the recommendations of the committee (e.g. senior managers and OSH Officers.) 

Consultation and agreement on the composition, roles, functions and procedures of the safety and health committee is necessary prior to the establishment of the committee. The agreement should also be documented and cover what arrangements are to be in place, should a vacancy occur.

Can a workplace have more than one safety and health committee (different worksites etc.)?

Each workplace can choose the best committee structure to suit their operation. For example, a construction company might have one committee across several worksites. A large hospital however, might choose to have one committee with several sub committees. 

What is the role of a safety and health committee?

Safety and health committees are an important part of a safety and health consultation system at the workplace, they provide a forum for employers and representatives of employees to regularly discuss and make recommendations on safety and health issues. They can also assist the employer to meet their obligation to consult employees on safety and health matters.

The functions of safety and health committees includes making recommendations to the employer and monitoring programmes, measures and procedures relating to the health and safety of employees. The committee should also be involved in considering and making recommendations on changes (or intended changes) that may affect the safety and health of employees.  The committee is an advisory group and it remains the employer’s responsibility to make decisions about safety and health issues. Safety and health committees can bring management and employee representatives together in a planned, structured and focused way, providing a means for developing safety and health policies and procedures of significance to the whole organisation.

Day to day safety and health issues do not need to be dealt with by the safety and health committee and should be resolved promptly by the employer, safety and health officer or safety and health representative.

How do disputes regarding the establishment of safety and health committees get resolved?

Efforts should be made by employees and employers, to resolve any issues relating to the establishment of safety and health committees. If issues cannot be resolved, the employer may refer the disputed matter to the Commissioner. The Commissioner will then make a determination and notify the employer and any relevant employees of the decision.

If a decision made by the Commissioner does not resolve the dispute, the employer, employee or safety and health representative may refer the decision to the Occupational Safety and Health Tribunal (OSH Tribunal) for review and resolution. A determination by the OSH Tribunal is binding on all parties.

What is a secret ballot?

A vote made in such a way that no other person will know how the elector has voted.

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