Safety and health representatives frequently asked questions
This page contains frequently asked questions about safety and health representatives.
Does my term of office change if I was elected under the Occupational Safety and Health Act?
There are transition arrangements in place for safety and health representatives (SHReps) elected under the previous OSH legislation.
If formally appointed and their remaining term of office is:
- less than 12 months: SHRep completes their existing term; or
- greater than 12 months: SHRep term expires at 12 months; or
If an elected safety and health representative has not been formally appointed by the date that the WHS laws commence: term of office is 12 months.
How often must I carry out an inspection?
Elected safety and health representatives can inspect the workplace or any part of it at agreed times with the employer or, where they have not done so in the preceding 30 days, at any time after giving reasonable notice to the employer. What is ‘reasonable notice’ for an inspection depends on the circumstances at the workplace.
What do I do if I come across a workplace hazard or risk?
All hazards and risks should be noted on a checklist and reported to employer, although hazards needing quick action should verbally be reported immediately.
What must I do in the event of an injury?
Once you have been notified of accident or dangerous injury, you may choose to investigate on your own or agree to a joint investigation with your employer.
Information about conducting an investigation is available on the WorkSafe website.
What do I do if my employer is not willing to fix the hazard?
You are able to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN).
Can I be held responsible for work related injuries?
No, under the Section 33 (3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, health and safety representatives are unable to be prosecuted under the Act as you have a function under the act not a duty of care.
What else am I responsible for?
Advising management of the views and concerns of your colleagues. To do this effectively you should discusses matters with workers and reach a common views before approaching management.
What is my role in the health and safety committee?
The function of a safety and health representative is to assist consultation and cooperation between employers and workers.
As a safety and health representative your function within the committee is to:
- refer matters that you have been unable to resolve;
- communicate with committee with workers issues;
- liaise on safety and health matters.
For more information about safety and health committees see the Formal consultative processes at the workplace guidance note
What are my obligations with keeping records?
All records of tasks related to your functions are an important part of being a safety and health representative. It is best practice that you keep a record of the following:
- Daily diary of safety and health events;
- Monthly planner for inspections, meetings and follow-ups;
- Copies of issued PINs;
- List of job procedures for hazard identification and risk analyses;
- Photographs or relevant plant and equipment;
- Reports of your inspections;
- Interview with workers;
- Copies of agendas and minutes of meeting;
- Hazard information relevant to the workplaces or workgroup for which you were elected.
Your employer shall make arrangement for you to be able to store records securely.
How can I resolve issues in the workplace?
When resolving issues you should refer to your company’s procedures, if your company do not have any procedures in place then Section 2.6 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations must be followed. Figure 4 of Guidance Note Formal Consultative Process will assist.
The Act requires that employers, safety and health representative and workers should all be involved. If a resolution cannot be reached it must be referred to the committee.
If the issue remains unresolved, either the employer or safety and health representative may request an inspector to attend the workplace. Inspectors only become involved after they have satisfied themselves that an attempt has been made to resolve the matter at the workplace as required but the Occupation Safety and Health Act.
Inspectors can issues improvement or prohibition notice or take whatever action they consider appropriate under the Act.
Could I be disqualified?
Yes, you can be disqualified by the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal if:
- You are found to have acted with the intention to harm your employer or their business;
- You have used or disclosed information obtained from your employers business not connected with your function as a health and safety representative, with the intention of causing harm;
- If you have failed to adequately preform your functions under the Act and regulations;
- The misuse of PINs.
What are the employers’ duties to representatives?
Employers’ duties outlined in the OSH Act and regulations include:
- Providing necessary information which is relevant to hazards or potential hazards in the workplace to assist safety and health representatives.
- Allowing a safety and health representative to be present at an interview/meeting with a worker on a matter of OSH, if the worker requests this.
- Consulting with safety and health representatives on any proposed changes which may be reasonably expected to affect the safety or health of workers before implementation.
- Giving safety and health representatives paid time off their normal duties perform safety and health representative’s functions.
- Giving safety and health representatives paid time off to training as per the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996.
- Notifying safety and health representatives immediately after an accident or a dangerous occurrence.
- Providing facilities and assistance to safety and health representatives, which must be agreed upon through consultation between the employer and safety and health representatives
What is a ‘scheme’?
A scheme allows workplaces to decide whether a safety and health representative can represent more than one workplace or a distinct unit within the workforce. In addition a ‘scheme’ may provide for a contractor and the people employed by the contractor to be treated as an employee for the purposes relating to safety and health representatives. Example: if a ‘scheme’ allows a contractor and his or her employees be treated as employees then the contractor and his or her employees can vote in the safety and health representative election or be nominated for a position as a safety and health representative.
The employer must invite employees from all identified workplaces, to appoint delegates to consult about the election. The employees may then appoint a delegate to take part in the decision-making process concerning the ‘scheme’. A ‘scheme’ only applies to workplaces where the employer has invited the employees at all identified workplaces to appoint delegates.
The employer and employee delegates need to consider the following matters if they wish to have a ‘scheme’.
- Identify and define the workplaces or group that the safety and health representative s) will represent.
- Decide whether a contractor and the employees of the contractor can be safety and health representatives.
- Identify workplaces where there are employees who will be represented by the safety and health representative(s) elected under the ‘scheme’.
- Decide whether the ‘scheme’ is to apply to future elections of safety and health representatives
- Decide how matters relating to the ’scheme’ can be changed after the scheme is set up
Agreements made under a ‘scheme’ must be in writing.
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