Health and safety representative (HSR)s frequently asked questions
This page contains frequently asked questions about health and safety representatives (HSRs).
HSRs elected under the previous legislation
The transitional arrangements for health and safety representatives (HSRs) elected under the previous Mines Safety Inspection Act 1994 or Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 end at the close of 30 March 2023.
Workers represented by HSRs elected under previous legislation should now commence negotiations to determine work groups and elect HSRs under the Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WHS Act).
The Information sheet: Electing health and safety representatives contains information on the election process.
HSRs who completed training under the previous legislation are not required to attend another five-day course. All HSRs are entitled to attend up to one day’s refresher training each year.
How often must I carry out an inspection?
Elected HSRs can inspect the workplace after giving the PCBU reasonable notice, or without notice if there has been a work health and safety (WHS) incident or serious risk.
‘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, for example using a checklist, and reported to the PCBU using their hazard reporting system, although hazards needing quick action should be verbally reported immediately.
What must I do in the event of an injury?
Once you have been notified of an injury, work related illness or dangerous incident relating to your work group, you may choose to investigate on your own or agree to a joint investigation with your PCBU. WorkSafe encourages HSRs to work cooperatively with their PCBU on safety and health issues.
Information about conducting an investigation is available on the WorkSafe website.
Note: section 38 of the WHS Act requires the PCBU to notify the regulator of any death, serious injury or illness, or dangerous incident.
What do I do if my PCBU is not willing to fix a hazard?
Trained HSRs are able to issue a provisional improvement notice (PIN) or direct workers to stop unsafe work.
If you have made reasonable efforts to resolve a health and safety issue but have been unable to resolve it, you can also contact WorkSafe on 1300 307 877 or firstname.lastname@example.org and ask the regulator to appoint an inspector to help resolve an issue.
Can I be held responsible for work related injuries?
No, under section 66 of the WHS Act an HSR is not personally liable for anything done in good faith while exercising a power or performing a function as an HSR.
What else am I responsible for?
Advising management of the views and concerns of your work group. To do this effectively you should discusses matters with workers and reach a common view before approaching management.
What is a health and safety committee?
A health and safety committee (HSC) is a useful forum for consultation on work health and safety issues. A committee enables the PCBU and worker representatives to meet regularly and work cooperatively to improve work health and safety outcomes.
The function of the committee is to:
- facilitate cooperation between the PCBU and workers in instigating, developing and carrying out measures to ensure workers’ health and safety
- assist in the development of work health and safety standards, rules and procedures
- perform any other functions agreed between the PCBU and HSC.
As an HSR, you are automatically a health and committee member unless you don’t want to be. If there is more than one HSR, you and the other HSRs can choose which HSRs will be HSC members.
What are my obligations with keeping records?
It is best practice to keep records of the consultation processes you have engaged in. The types of records you keep will depend on the size and type of your workplace. Records that may be useful include:
- notes containing dates of interviews, inspections and meetings
- copies of issued PINs
- risk assessments
- photographs or relevant plant and equipment
- reports of your inspections
- workplace investigation reports
- notes from consultation with your work group
- agendas and meeting minutes
- hazard information relevant to your work group.
The PCBU should give you a secure place to store records.
When resolving issues you should refer to your workplace’s procedures, if your workplace does not have any procedures in place, the default procedure in the relevant WHS Regulations must be followed:
- regulation 23 of the Work Health and Safety (General) Regulations 2022
- regulation 23 of the Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulations 2022
- regulation 18 of the Work Health and Safety (Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Operations) Regulations 2022.
The Code of Practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination contains information about developing issue resolution procedures.
The WHS Act requires that PCBUs, HSRs and workers are all involved in issue resolution.
If a resolution cannot be reached after reasonable efforts have been made, anyone involved can ask the regulator to appoint an inspector to resolve the issue. This request does not prevent an HSR from exercising their powers – they can still direct that unsafe work cease or issue a provisional improvement notice. Workers still have the right to stop unsafe work under s. 84 of the WHS Act.
Could I be disqualified as an HSR?
Yes, you can be disqualified by the Work Health and Safety Tribunal if you have:
- exercised a power or performed a function as an HSR for an improper purpose, or
- used or disclosed any information you acquired as an HSR for a purpose other than in connection with the role of HSR.
For example, a PCBU may apply to disqualify an HSR if the HSR issued a direction to cease work where, in the PCBU’s view, the HSR did not have a reasonable concern that the work could pose a serious health and safety risk to a member of their work group.
The court or tribunal has the discretion to disqualify the HSR indefinitely or for a specified period of time.
Any person can apply to disqualify an HSR if they have been adversely affected by the exercise of a power or performance of an HSR or how the HSR has used or disclosed information they obtained as an HSR.
Could I be removed from my HSR role?
Yes, an HSR is removed from office when the majority of work group members sign a written declaration and when the HSR, the majority of work group members and any relevant PCBUs have been informed of the decision.
What are the PCBU’s duties to HSRs?
The PCBU must:
- consult with HSRs on WHS matters
- give the HSR WHS information that affects the work group (a worker’s personal or medical information must not be provided without consent)
- allow the HSR to accompany an inspector during an inspection of the workplace
- allow the HSR to attend a meeting between a worker (or group of workers) and the PCBU or an inspector (with the worker’s consent)
- provide reasonable resources and assistance to HSRs
- allow a person assisting the HSR reasonable access to the workplace
- allow the HSR to spend reasonable time performing their role
- pay the HSR their usual wage while they perform their role
- display an up to date list of HSRs and deputy HSRs at the workplace.
It is an offence to discriminate against an HSR for any action they take while performing their role, or to threaten them to discourage them from exercising a power.
What is a work group?
Work groups enable workers to elect HSRs to represent them on health and safety matters. They are formed by negotiation and agreement between the PCBU and the workers who are proposed to form the work group or their representatives.
For more information on establishing work groups and HSR elections, please refer to the Information Sheet: Electing health and safety representatives.
Are there limits to an HSR’s powers and functions?
The HSR’s powers and functions generally only apply to the work group they were elected to represent, and the areas of the workplace where workers in their work group work.
However, the HSR may assist another work group at the workplace if the HSR for the work group is unavailable and:
- there is a serious risk to the safety and health emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard, or
- a member of another work group asks for assistance.
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