Health and safety representatives (HSRs) primary role is to represent employees within their workgroup to the PCBU on health and safety matters. To meet these responsibilities, HSR training in most states of Australia needs to be provided if requested (except Queensland where it is now mandatory).
If you are an HSR, team leader, supervisor, or manager, you should ensure that you understand the role of the HSR and how to obtain the necessary HSR training through approved training courses.
What Is the Training Requirement for HSR Courses?
HSR training is now mandatory under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011 in Queensland only. Companies and organisations may elect health and safety representatives to represent the health and safety of the workers.
There are several training requirements for training providers. Organisations that choose to offer HSR training must offer face-to-face courses so that HSRs can learn from each other.
Providers also need to accommodate different learning styles. They also need to ensure that their course is safe and comfortable for all participants, regardless of their age, gender, culture, language, or any disability.
How Is the HSR Training Delivered?
HSR training is delivered face-to-face over the course of five days for the initial training. The curriculum and the details of the training course can vary. Different providers may devise different training courses but to be eligible the training must be delivered over 5 days as prescribed in the legislation.
Some training providers may also decide to deliver the training over a longer period, instead of delivering the training over five consecutive days. However, the individual blocks of time cannot be less than one day. Excluding breaks, each block should last 7 hours for a total of 35 hours of training.
Online HSR training is available. However, online training is not suitable for meeting the powers of a HSR as part of the WHS act. Individuals who have already completed the five-day training program may take one of the online courses as a refresher.
Many training providers also offer one-day refresher courses that can be completed face-to-face or online. HSRs are entitled to take this refresher course once each year to remain up to date with their responsibilities as an HSR. Although these rights are prescribed in legislation, the reality is employers typically decide whether or not the training is undertaken – not many employees would be game to issue a cease work order or provisional improvement notice because of the potential fallout it may cause to one’s career.
Why Do You Need HSR Training?
According to the WHS Act, specific occupations require a workgroup to elect a health and safety representative. The HSR is responsible for ensuring that the working conditions are safe for the individuals in his or her workgroup and reporting back issues to the PCBU.
Is HSR Training Mandatory?
Queensland is the only state under the WHS Act where the training has become mandatory. Previously, the Queensland WHS Act did not require HSR training. However, new laws were enacted that went into effect in July 2018. These new laws now make HSR training mandatory for HSRs. In fact, after being elected an HSR, representatives have six months to complete the necessary training.
These courses teach HSRs the skills and knowledge needed to represent the safety of their fellow workers. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, HSRs are entitled to attend HSR training upon request. After being elected an HSR, they may notify their employer that they want to attend their initial five-day training.
It should also be noted that HSR training is required for an HSR to receive the full powers of their role under the WHS Act. For example, completing this training allows an HSR to issue provisional improvement notices (PINs) and to direct work to stop until a safety issue is addressed or resolved.
How Much Does the Average HSR Training Course Cost?
The average cost of HSR training can vary depending upon the jurisdiction. There are many training providers that are approved to offer the five-day HSR training courses. These providers must be approved by their State or Federal regulator and may choose their own fees for the training courses.
In Sydney, there are several providers that offer five-day courses starting at $650 for each participant. Similar prices are available to HSRs in Melbourne, where the average cost of the five-day course is about $800. Prices tend to be a little lower in Brisbane, where courses may cost as little as $600.
Many training providers also provide discounts for group training. During certain times of the year, these training courses may also be offered at lower prices. The cost of the refresher courses also varies between providers.
What Will You Learn During an HSR Training Course?
HSRs learn a variety of techniques for inspecting the safety of their workplace and addressing safety issues. Most of this training revolves around the proper procedures for notifying an employer of potential safety hazards.
During the training, HSRs commonly learn information and skills related to the interpretation of the WHS legislative framework. You will learn how to identify key parties and their obligations.
HSR training also provides the skills needed to establish safety representation in the workplace and participate in the consultation. By completing these courses, HSRs are prepared to deal with the resolution of safety issues.
These training courses often include practical exercises in a variety of areas. HSRs will learn how to complete workplace safety inspections and accompany a WHSQ inspector during inspections. They also learn how to properly represent their workgroup in all safety and health matters.
HSRs are also responsible for monitoring the compliance of safety measures and investigating any safety and health complaints from workers in his or her workgroup. HSRs also learn when and how to direct workers to cease work in unsafe conditions.
The five-day training course also prepares HSRs for utilising their powers. Under the WHS act, HSRs may issue provisional improvement notices. A PIN is a written direction from an HSR requiring the responsible individual to address a safety issue. These PINs are only issued when an agreement to resolve the issue cannot be reached through normal consultation.
What Accreditation Will You Get?
Completing the HSR training does not provide any accreditation. These are non-accredited courses designed to provide general knowledge and skills for HSRs. While these courses are required for HSRs to utilise their full powers under the WHS Act, and are often delivered by RTOs, the course does not result in a Nationally Recognised Statement of Attainment. Typically a Certificate of Completion or Attendance will be issued.
Beyond the HSR training, some organisations and employers choose to require HSRs to complete the Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety. This program is accredited and provides participants with a qualification. It is generally considered more inclusive compared to HSR training and helps HSRs understand how to respond to safety incidents with proper emergency procedures.