Health and safety representatives (HSRs) can make a real difference in addressing health and safety issues in the workplace. HSRs represent members of their designated work group (DWG) and provide employees with a way to have their views heard by employers.
HSRs and DHSRs are elected by members of the DWG.
What the OHS Act says about electing HSRs
Sections 54, 55 and 57 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) provides for the election of HSRs and deputy HSRs.
Standing for election
To stand for election as an HSR, an employee must:
- be a member of the DWG
- must not be disqualified by a Magistrates’ Court from acting as an HSR.
DWG members can nominate themselves or another DWG member to stand for election.
Term of office
The term of office for an HSR must not exceed three years. HSRs may be re-elected when their term of office expires.
Are employers able to appoint an HSR?
Employers cannot appoint HSRs. This is because employees have the right to decide who will best represent their health and safety interests.
Employees also determine how the election will be conducted, while the employers’ role is to allow and enable these elections to take place.
When to have an election
HSR elections should be held:
- after a DWG is established or varied
- when an HSR no longer holds office
- when an HSRs term of office expires
- when there is more than one candidate for each HSR position
Electing deputy HSRs
Deputy HSRs are elected in the same way as HSRs. If an election is needed for each role in a DWG, there would ideally be two separate elections. This allows an employee who wants to nominate for both roles to be considered for each one.
How to conduct an election and who can vote
Only the members of the DWG that the HSR will represent can vote in an election. DWG members decide how an HSR election will be conducted. The process might be informal, such as a show of hands, or more formal, such as ballot papers and ballot box.
Example election process
- Agree on election process
- Who is eligible
- Call for nominations
- Conducting elections
- Election outcome
After the election
An employer must ensure that a written list of each HSR and DHSR for each DWG is prepared and kept up-to-date. Employers must display this at the workplace or make it readily accessible to all employees.
What to do when a DWG disagrees with the election process
DWG members can request a WorkSafe inspector to conduct the election if they cannot agree on how to conduct it within a reasonable timeframe. Generally, WorkSafe considers two weeks to be a reasonable timeframe.
An inspector might first attempt to get all DWG members to agree how to conduct the election. If this doesn't work, the inspector can decide which election process they use and they can conduct the election or appoint another person to conduct the election.
Employers or employees affected by an inspector’s decision can ask WorkSafe to review the decision.