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Health and safety representatives and health and safety committees

Health and safety representatives and health and safety committees provide the means for representation and participation of workers in health and safety matters at the workplace. Worker representation facilitates consultation, involving workers and giving them a voice in health and safety matters.

Health and safety representatives (HSR)

An HSR represents the health and safety interests of a work group. There can be as many HSRs and deputy HSRs as needed after consultation, negotiation and agreement between workers and the persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU).

A PCBU must keep a current list of all HSRs and deputy HSRs and display a copy at the workplace.

HSRs can issue a provisional improvement notice (PIN) for an issue affecting the workgroup they represent.

Work groups

A worker or group of workers can ask the PCBU they are carrying out work for to facilitate the election of one or more HSRs. The election process starts with the setting up of a work group - a work group is a group of workers who share a similar work situation, and the HSR represents the health and safety interests of the worker's in that work group.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (PDF, 1.42 MB) allows for one, or for multiple work groups at each workplace. The workers and the PCBU can negotiate on how many work groups are required for their workplace based on factors such as:

The negotiation and determination of work groups must be directed at ensuring that workers are grouped in a way that most effectively and conveniently enables the work health and safety interest of those workers to be represented and must have regard to the need for the HSR to be readily accessible to each worker in the group.

For example, a manufacturing workplace may decide that it will have two work groups: One work group might consist of all workers in the office part of a manufacturing complex and the other might consist of all the manufacturing workers. The workers and PCBU may have negotiated the creation of two work groups because it was felt that the different types of work being undertaken create different health and safety risks which are better represented by two separate work groups.

Similarly, a work group might consist of workers of the same trade, or it might consist of all workers on the night shift. If agreed workers from multiple businesses all working on a single site can be part of the same work group which could cover contractors, labour hire staff, outworkers and apprentices.

If a request is made for the election of an HSR, the PCBU must start negotiations with workers regarding work groups within 14 days of that request being made. These negotiations will determine the:

A PCBU must involve a worker's representative (e.g. union) in the negotiations if asked by the worker. The PCBU must also notify workers as soon as practicable of the outcome of the negotiations. At any time, the parties to a work group agreement may negotiate a variation.

If negotiations fail any person who is a party to the negotiations can request an inspector to assist in deciding the matter.

Election and eligibility

The members of a work group elect their own HSR. All members of the work group are able to vote in an election and the PCBU must provide resources and assistance to carry out the election.

To be eligible for election, a person must be a member of the work group and not be disqualified from acting as an HSR. Elections for a deputy HSR are carried out in the same way.

The term of an HSR/deputy HSR is three years. They cease to hold office if:

HSRs can be re-elected. Elections are not needed when the number of candidates is the same as the number of vacancies.

Training

An HSR does not need any experience or special qualifications but is entitled to attend a training course approved by WHSQ.

If requested, a PCBU must allow HSRs and deputy HSRs to attend a work health and safety course approved by WHSQ.

Within three months of the request, the PCBU must give HSRs paid time off to attend a course and pay the course costs and reasonable expenses.

An HSR can only issue a provisional improvement notice (PIN) if they have attended an approved training course.

A HSR is entitled to attend the following courses of paid training under section 21 of the WHS Regulation:

Find a registered training organisation that delivers health and safety representative training.

Powers and functions

The role of an HSR is generally limited to their own work group unless there is a serious risk to health or safety (created by an immediate hazard) affecting workers from another work group, or a worker in another work group asks for the HSR's assistance, and the HSR for that other work group is found to be unavailable.

An elected HSR is entitled to perform the following tasks for the work group*:

* Amendments to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 that came into effect on 16 May 2014 mean that HSRs no longer have the power to direct a worker to cease unsafe work. Workers retain the right to cease unsafe work if they have a reasonable concern that to carry out the work would expose them to a serious risk to their health and safety from an imminent or immediate exposure to a hazard. A worker can also raise concerns with their HSR for investigation.

An HSR is not personally liable for anything done, or not done, in good faith while carrying out their role. However any person adversely affected by a decision or action of an HSR can apply to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission to have them disqualified.

A person conducting a business or undertaking must:

Health and safety representatives elected under old legislation

HSRs elected under the repealed Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 will continue to hold their appointment for three years from the date they were appointed. HSRs who were qualified under the WHS Act 1995 have already completed PINS training and are not required to undertake further training on this matter.

Health and safety committees (HSC)

A health and safety committee (HSC) facilitates cooperation between a PCBU and workers in developing and carrying out measures to ensure health and safety at work. This includes health and safety standards, rules and procedures for the workplace.

A PCBU must set up an HSC within two months of being requested to do so by an HSR, or by five or more workers in a workplace, or when required by the WHS Regulation.

A PCBU can also establish an HSC if they desire.

At least half of the members of an HSC must be workers that have not been nominated by the PCBU. An HSR can also consent to be a member of the committee and, when a workplace has more than one HSR, they can choose one or more to be members.

When agreement can not be reached on the composition of an HSC, any party to the committee can request an inspector's assistance to decide the matter.

An HSC must meet at least once every three months and at any reasonable time at the request of at least half of the members of the committee.