Electing health and safety representatives
How to elect health and safety representatives (HSR) in the workplace.
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
DWG members communicate to agree on a process for the election
To be eligible for election, a person must be a member of the DWG and must not be disqualified from acting as an HSR.
- Ensure all DWG members are given the opportunity to nominate for the position of HSR
- A DWG member may nominate themselves or another member of the DWG to stand for election
- conduct an election after the nominations have closed
- Inform all DWG members of the election date as soon as possible
- Ensure all DWG members are given the opportunity to vote in the election in accordance with the agreed process
- If the number of candidates for election as an HSR equals the number of vacancies, the election need not be conducted and each candidate is to be taken to have been elected as an HSR for the DWG.
- The election process may be informal, such as a show of hands, or formal, such as voting by ballot
- DWG members may also choose to, for example, ask their union to run the election for them (if there is more than one union representing the members of the DWG, this can be done jointly by agreement).
Ensure all DWG members and the employer are informed of the election outcome in accordance with the agreed process
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.
Information on this page is from the 'Employee representation: A comprehensive guide to Part 7 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004' publication. Find more information from the guide on the main health and safety representatives collection page or download the PDF.