An health and safety representative (HSR) plays an important role in representing members of their designated work group (DWG). The OHS Act gives HSRs a role in raising and resolving any OHS issues with their employer, and powers to take issues further if necessary.
Although the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act and OHS Regulations give HSRs certain powers, there are no additional duties other than those required of all employees in a workplace. The ultimate responsibility for providing a healthy and safe workplace rests with the employer.
What the OHS Act says about an HSR’s powers
Section 58 of the OHS Act sets out powers of HSRs
Section 60 of the OHS Act provides for the HSR to issue a provisional improvement notice
Section 74 of the OHS Act provides for the HSR to issue a direction to cease work
The purpose of an HSR's powers
The OHS Act sets out the specific powers of HSRs. The HSR may use these powers for the purpose of:
- representing members of the DWG in regards to health and safety
- monitoring measures made by the employer to comply with the OHS Act and OHS Regulations
- enquiring about anything that poses a risk to the health and safety of their DWG
- attempting to resolve OHS issues with their employer in accordance with an agreed procedure, or prescribed procedure if there is no agreed procedure
The role of deputy HSRs
It may not always be possible for the elected HSR of a particular DWG to be available to represent their DWG when needed.
If the HSR for a DWG ceases to hold office or is unable, because of absence or any other reason, to exercise the powers of an HSR, the powers may be exercised by a deputy HSR (DHSR) for the DWG. For example, the HSR may be away from the workplace, on leave, due to illness or annual leave, on call, attending a course or working a different shift.
Under such circumstances, the deputy DHSR is deemed to be the HSR, and may:
- exercise the powers of the HSR
- the employer obligations, as outlined in Part 7 of the OHS Act, apply to those DHSRs
HSR powers under the 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. However, if there is an incident or any situation involving an immediate risk to health of safety, the HSR does not need to provide reasonable notice to their employer and can inspect the part of the workplace immediately
- an HSR may accompany an inspector during an inspection of a workplace where a member of their DWG works
- 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 about health or safety matters between that person and an inspector or employer
- if the HSR is authorised to represent an independent contractor, or an employee of an independent contractor, and that person consents, the HSR may attend interviews about health or safety matters between that person and an inspector or employer
- an HSR may seek the help of any person whenever necessary
- an HSR may issue a provisional improvement notice if an issue cannot be resolved in a satisfactory or timely manner
- an HSR may issue a direction to cease work in the case of an immediate threat to the health or safety of any person
HSRs using their powers outside their DWG
HSRs can use only their powers outside of their DWG if there is an immediate health and safety risk, or if a member of another DWG asks for help, and it isn't feasible to ask the elected HSR or the deputy HSR for that group.