Now that we are well into 2012 and the new Work Health and Safety laws which
introduced the role of Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) in N.S.W., we
thought we would cover Health & Safety Representatives (HSRs) in more details.

HSR appointment

If a worker makes a request to the PCBU to facilitate the conduct of an election to
appoint HSRs, then the PCBU must facilitate the determination of one or more work
groups.

A work group is determined by consultation between the PCBU and the workers
who will form the work group. Negotiations in relation to work groups must be
commenced within 14 days of a request for elections. The PCBU must notify workers
of the outcome of the negotiations as soon as practicable. If there is a failure in the
negotiation process, any person can request an inspector to attend and resolve the
deadlock.

Election of HSRs

A worker is eligible to be elected as a HSR if he/she is a member of the work group.
The new legislation also allows for Deputy HSRs to be elected.

The workers in a work group determine how an election of an HSR is to be
conducted and the PCBU must provide resources, facilities and assistance that
would be reasonably necessary or prescribed to enable elections to be conducted.
All workers in a work group are entitled to vote. Although an election is not required if
the number of candidates equal the number of HSR vacancies.

The term of office for a HSR is 3 years unless they resign, cease to be a worker in
the work group, or are disqualified or removed by the majority of the work group
members.

Health and safety representatives (HSRs) are entitled to:

represent workers in health and safety matters;

monitor the measures taken by the PCBU;

investigate complaints relating to health and safety; and

enquire into anything that appears to be a risk to health or safety.

HSR Training

To date, WorkCover NSW has developed two approved HSR training courses. A 5-
Day Initial HSR Course and for 2012, a 1-Day Bridging course which is available for
all HSR’s who have previously attended the OHS 4-day Consultation Course.

PCBUs must allow HSRs to attend an approved course if the HSR requests training.
The PCBU must pay the course fees and allow HSRs the time to attend the training
and must also pay the HSR their normal pay during any time off to attend the
training.

Powers of HSRs

HSRs can:

inspect the workplace or any part of the workplace after giving the PCBU
reasonable notice, or immediately without notice if an incident involves
serious risks to the health and safety of any person;

accompany an inspector during an inspection;

be present at an interview concerning safety with an inspector and a worker
(with consent);

request that a health and safety committee be established; and

request the assistance of any person, including a union delegate, whenever
necessary.

Additional powers apply to HSRs who have attended the approved training:

HSRs have the power to direct any unsafe work to cease. This is limited to
directing workers in their own work group unless the HSR for another work group
is unavailable and there is a serious risk to health or safety or a member of that
group asks for their assistance.

HSRs may also issue provisional improvement notices (PIN). A PIN is a
notice requiring the PCBU to remedy, in the opinion of the HSR, a breach of the
WHS laws. It can only be issued after consulting with the PCBU first.

Note: If a PIN has been issued and the PCBU wishes to have the PIN reviewed
by an inspector, the PCBU can request a review. If no request for review is
made, the PIN must be complied with. Failure to comply with the PIN can result in
penalties.

PCBU duties in relation to HSRs

A PCBU must:

  • consult on safety matters with any HSR;
  • allow any HSR to have access to information relating to health and safety;
  • allow the HSR to be present in interviews;
  • provide any resources, facilities and assistance that is reasonably necessary;
  • allow a person assisting an HSR to have access to the workplace; and
  • permit a HSR to accompany an inspector and allow a HSR to spend such time as is reasonably necessary to exercise their powers and functions.

For further information, Safe Work Australia has developed the ‘Worker
Representation and Participation Guide’.

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