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Health and safety representatives represent designated work groups

A health and safety representative (HSR) is elected by the members of their designated work group (DWG). They represent the DWG on its occupational health and safety (OHS) issues, concerns and interests.

A DWG is a grouping of employees who share similar workplace health and safety interests and conditions.

Forming a DWG

An employee may ask their employer to establish a DWG, or an employer can initiate the process. An employer must do everything reasonable to ensure that negotiations to establish a DWG start within 14 days of an HSR’s request.

A DWG may be made up of employees in 1 or more workplaces operated by a single employer. Or it may include employees of multiple employers at 1 or more workplaces. The grouping is negotiated and agreed between the employer (or their representative) and the employees (or their representative).

Electing HSRs

The DWG elects 1 or more HSRs to represent it. They may also elect deputy HSRs. To be eligible for election, you must be a member of the DWG.

HSR powers under the OHS Act 2004 (OHS Act)

  • An HSR may inspect any part of a workplace in which a member of their DWG works, after giving reasonable notice to their employer. They may inspect without delay if there is an incident or immediate risk to health or safety of any person.
  • An HSR may accompany an inspector during a workplace inspection involving their DWG.
  • An HSR may require the establishment of a health and safety committee (HSC).
  • If the member of their DWG consents, an HSR may attend interviews on health or safety matters between that person and an inspector or employer.
  • If the HSR is authorised to represent an independent contractor, and that person consents, the HSR may attend interviews on health or safety matters between that person and an inspector or employer.
  • An HSR may seek the help of any person whenever necessary.

Consulting with HSRs

The law requires employers to consult with employees on OHS matters affecting them. If there is an HSR, consultation must involve them, with or without the employees being involved directly.

Provisional Improvement Notices (PINs)

A PIN is a formal notice that an HSR may give to their employer. It can only be issued by an elected HSR (or deputy HSR when the HSR is unavailable). An HSR can issue a PIN when they believe the OHS Act or Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) have been contravened in their workplace.

The HSR must first consult with their employer about the alleged health and safety issue. A PIN is only issued when consultation between the HSR and employer has failed to resolve the issue.  For details about what WorkSafe considers to be consultation in this situation, see the Employee Representation Handbook.

Tips for filling in a PIN

  • A PIN can be issued to any ‘person’ with duties under the OHS Act. The term ‘person’ can include an organisation (i.e. the employer), an individual, a body corporate, incorporated body or association, or a partnership.
  • Complete a separate PIN for each health and safety issue.
  • Give your details at the beginning of the form. Then a WorkSafe inspector can contact you if needed (for example if the PIN is disputed by the person who received it).
  • Keep a copy of your completed PIN.

Direction to cease work

HSRs have the right to direct work to stop if there is an immediate threat to anyone’s health or safety, after they have consulted with their employer and for whatever reason it is not appropriate to follow an agreed issue resolution procedure or the procedures in the OHS Regulations.

At any time, an HSR or employer can ask WorkSafe to send an inspector to look into the issue. Everyone has the right to stop work if there is an immediate threat to their health or safety.

Discrimination

An employer must not dismiss, discriminate against, or treat an employee less favourably because they are or have been an HSR. This includes deputy HSRs.

Employers must not threaten, dismiss or refuse to hire someone, or otherwise adversely affect their employment, because of their involvement in health and safety. If they do, it is an offence and they risk major penalties.

Employee representation handbook

A comprehensive reference for HSRs, employers, and others involved in OHS representation. Read about:

  • designated work groups
  • electing HSRS
  • powers of HSRs
  • employer obligations to HSRs
  • health and safety committees
  • issue resolution
  • discrimination