The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) recognises the important role of health and safety representatives (HSRs) play in representing the health and safety interests of employees and states that:
- employees are entitled, and should be encouraged, to be represented in relation to health and safety issues
- employers and employees should exchange information and ideas about risks to health and safety and measures that can be taken to eliminate or reduce those risks
At WorkSafe, we believe the role of HSRs should be encouraged, supported and protected. We encourage the establishment of designated work groups (DWGs) and the election of HSRs in the workplace.
An HSR is an elected and voluntary role. HSRs can make a real difference in achieving better health and safety outcomes in your workplace. Employers must work with them and support them in this role.
What the OHS Act says about HSRs and employee representation
Part 7 of the OHS Act provides for the representation of employees
While employers have the duty to provide a safe workplace, HSRs play an important role in helping to keep workplaces safe.
The OHS Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) provide HSRs with certain powers. They do not impose additional duties other than those required of all employees in a workplace under Section 25 of the OHS Act. The Act also allows for HSRs to be trained so they can effectively fulfil their role.
The value of HSRs in workplace safety
The OHS Act gives HSRs a role in raising and resolving any occupational health and safety (OHS) issues with their employer and powers to enforce compliance with the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.
HSRs represent their Designated Work Group (DWG) on occupational health and safety issues, concerns and interests.
HSRs can facilitate communication and consultation and provide a crucial link between employers and employees.
It's important for HSRs to have the time and opportunity to build consultative, positive relationships with those around them and with whom they interact with as an HSR.
Time to perform their role
HSRs must have ready access to the employer (or their representative) and the employees of the DWG to discuss OHS matters as they arise. This time will vary between workplaces and across situations.
HSRs must not to be disadvantaged in any way for taking on the role of HSR.
When exercising their powers as an HSR, accessing their entitlements or performing any of the functions the OHS Act gives them, HSRs should be paid as if at work, including shift or other allowances to which an employee is entitled.