Introduction
Welcome to AlertForce’s third monthly newsletter. In our very first newsletter for
2012 we asked the question – Are you prepared for WHS Consultation, co-
operation and co-ordination on safety and welfare issues?

This month’s newsletter focuses on establishing workgroups, electing Health &
Safety Representatives (HSRs) and establishing Health & Safety Committees
(HSC).

Consultation
To recap, the WHS Act specifies consultation is required in relation to the following
health and safety matters:
When identifying hazards and assessing risk to health and safety arising from
the work carried out or to be carried out by the business or undertaking
When making decisions about ways to eliminate or minimise those risks,
When making decisions about the adequacy of facilities for the welfare of
workers,
When proposing changes that may affect the health and safety or workers
When making decisions about the procedures for:
o Consulting with workers, or
o Resolving work health or safety issues at the workplace, or
o Monitoring the health of workers, or
o Monitoring the conditions at any workplace under the management or
control of the PCBU, or
o Providing information and training for workers, or
o When carrying out any other activity prescribed by the regulation for
the purposed of this section.

To facilitate the consultation with your workers, you should engage them in helping
to decide what would be the most effective way your business can consult with your
workers. Who better to ask, than the workers themselves?

Workgroups
If a request is made for a HSR, the PCBU (includes employer) must facilitate the
determination of one or more work groups of workers.

Work groups are workers represented by a health and safety representative (HSR).
Usually these workers perform similar types of work and have similar health and
safety concerns and conditions within the workplace.

Work groups allow workers’ interests to be represented effectively and conveniently.

Decisions about establishing work groups must be made by consultation and
agreement between the PCBU and the relevant workers. When agreement on the
work group/s has been reached, the PCBU must notify the workers of the outcome of
the negotiations.

Request for election for a Health and Safety Representative (HSR)
A worker who carries out work for a PCBU may ask the PCBU to facilitate the
conduct of an election for one or more HSRs to represent workers.

When agreement on the number and type of work groups to be represented has
been reached along with the number of HSRs (and deputy HSRs if applicable),
the PCBU must provide any reasonable resources, facilities and help to enable an
election to be conducted.

After the nominations have been called, an election can be conducted. The members
of the work group can determine the election procedure however, there are minimum
requirements prescribed in the Work Health and Safety Regulations. These
procedures include that the person conducting the election ensures:

Each PCBU in which a worker in the work group works is informed of the
election date as soon as practicable after the date is determined

All workers in the work group being given an opportunity to:

o nominate for the position of HSR
o vote in the election

All workers in the workgroup and all relevant PCBUs are informed of the
outcome of the election.

A PCBU must not unreasonably delay the election of an HSR.

Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs)
The role of a HSR is to facilitate the flow of information about health and safety
between the PCBU and the workers in their work group.

The powers and functions of a HSR are to:-
Represent workers in a work group on work health & safety (WHS)matters
Monitor WHS actions taken by the PCBU
Investigate WHS complaints from workers of the work group
Look into anything that might be a risk to the WHS of the workers they
represent

If the HSR has completed approved HSR training, they can exercise additional
powers:-
To direct unsafe work to stop when they have a reasonable concern that
carrying out the work would expose a worker to a serious risk
To issue a ‘Provisional Improvement Notice’ (PIN) when they reasonably
believe there is a contravention of the WHS Act.

Health and Safety Committees
Health and safety committees bring together workers and management to assist in
the development and review of health and safety policies and procedures for the
workplace.

The functions of the health and safety committee are:

• To facilitate co-operation between the PCBU and workers in instigating,

developing and carrying out measures designed to ensure the health and
safety of workers

• To assist in developing standards, rules and procedures relative to health and

safety

• Such other functions prescribed by the regulations or agreed between the

PCBU and the committee i.e. monitor progress of your WHS Action Plan,
monitor hazards inspections, monitor incident records etc.

The effective operation of a health and safety committee is dependent upon
everyone fulfilling their role.

A health and safety committee (HSC) must meet at least every three months and at
any reasonable time when requested by at least half the members of the committee.

Establishment of health and safety committees
The PCBU must establish a health and safety committee within two months after
being requested to do so by:

• A health and safety representative (HSR), or

• Five or more workers at the workplace.

A health and safety committee may be established for workers who carry out work at
one or more locations or for those who do not have a fixed place of work.

A PCBU can also establish a health and safety committee on their own initiative.

The constitution of the health and safety committee may be agreed to between
the PCBU, HSR and workers at the workplace. If agreement is not reached within a
reasonable time, any party may ask WorkCover to appoint an inspector to decide the
matter.

Health and safety committee membership
The makeup of the committee can be agreed to between the workers and the PCBU.
The PCBU can only nominate up to half of the members.

A HSR is a member of the committee if they consent. If there are two or more HSRs
at a workplace, then they can choose one or more who consent to be members of
the committee.

Other Agreed Arrangements
Other agreed arrangements are flexible alternatives for establishing
agreed consultation arrangements that meet your business needs and improve
decision making, especially where there is no health and safety representative
(HSR) or health and safety committee (HSC).

Some examples of ‘Other Agreed Arrangements’ could include:

regular scheduled meetings

team meetings (where work health and safety is always an agenda item)

one-off meetings

tool box talks

face to face discussions

briefing sessions

Some workplaces may need a mix of HSRs, HSCs and / or other agreed
consultation arrangements tailored to suit the workers and the work environment.

More detailed information can be accessed via the Work health and safety
consultation, cooperation and coordination Code of Practice.

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