Health and safety issues can relate to a variety of topics in the workplace, from identifying workplace hazards or breaches to introducing new equipment or work processes.
What the OHS Act and OHS Regulations say about issue resolution
Section 73 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) provides for issue resolution and Part 2.2 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) provides for issue resolution procedures.
Who to include in issue resolution
When addressing workplace health and safety issues, the following people must be included in discussions:
- the employer or their representative, who is not a health and safety representative (HSR), and has appropriate seniority and is sufficiently competent to act on their behalf
- employees affected by the issue, or the HSR of the employee's DWG affected by the issue
Those involved in discussions can also ask for an organisation of workers, such as a union, or an organisation of employers, such as an employer association, to be involved.
What to do when an issue happens in the workplace
Promptly addressing a health and safety issue with the relevant people affected can increase the chance the matter is resolved efficiently and effectively.
Those involved must attempt to resolve the issue in accordance with an agreed procedure.
If an agreed procedure isn't in place, part 2.2 of the OHS Regulations provides for issue resolution procedures and must be used.
There must be consultation and agreement between the employer, HSRs and employees to achieve an 'agreed issue resolution procedure' for health and safety issues. The agreed procedure should provide practical guidance and must be able to facilitate resolution of health and safety issues in a workplace. The agreed procedure must:
- be genuinely agreed between the employer, and the HSRs and employees
- describe a process to follow to resolve issues
- include a way to facilitate the resolution of issues
- be in place for the purpose of resolving health and safety issues
Any agreed procedure must be consistent with the OHS Act and cannot include an agreement to remove the power of an HSR to issue a PIN or to exercise any of their powers.
What to do when an issue can't be resolved
If the issue remains unresolved within what would be considered a reasonable time, any of the people involved in the resolution can ask for a WorkSafe inspector to enquire into the issue. HSRs also have powers to issue Provisional Improvement Notices.
Immediate health and safety threats
Issue resolution procedures should not be followed if a workplace issue presents an immediate threat to anyone’s health and safety. Under section 74 of the OHS Act, following consultation between them, employers or a HSR may instead issue a direction to cease work.