Workplace Health and Safety Representatives

What do WHS Representatives Represent?

Posted on October 10, 2011 by The Safety Nerd

OHS Representatives are not becoming an extinct species, but they are changing their spots. Out with the old, in with the new I say, and in waltzes HSRs – Health and Safety Representatives with more responsibility, more knowledge and more power and an attitude to match! So if you want one of these new fan-dangle HSRs you can’t just get one, manners please – they need to be requested, then elected. The election can be undertaken by a union or other person or organisation, you need to keep the PCBU in the loop and display a notice of election, invite nominations for candidates and state the time and date of the election. You can only vote if you’re a member of the workgroup and the elected HSR must be a member of that workgroup. Prior to the election you need to set your workgroups being the areas/ departments that the HSRs will represent and this needs to be negotiated between the big guys and the little guys being the PCBUs and workers forming the workgroup. The negotiations are about the number and composition of workgroups, number of HSRs and Deputy HSRs and the workgroups.

Once all the fine print has been sorted out you need to let workers know of these arrangements. This bit is quite interesting, if you have more than 2 people in your PCBU but work on a site that has a couple of employers such as a construction site, you can do the above if all parties are involved and if people dig their heels in and no agreement is found you can get an inspector in to iron it out. If you are in this arrangement but want to get out of it, you just have to advise the others in writing. So, enough of the set up, once you have HSRs they are entitled to: – Represent their workgroup in health and safety matters – Investigate complaints – Inquire into anything that appears to be a risk arising from the business or undertaking – Inspect the workplace after giving the PCBU reasonable notice, or if there’s been an incident or it’s a serious risk immediately without notice

Can they get fired as a HSR? Yes if they abuse their power, use or disclose information for a purpose unconnected with their role as a HSR or you can apply through the court if someone has become adversely affected by the actions of the HSR. As a PCBU you must consult as far as reasonably practicable with the HSRs on health and safety matters, confer with HSRs when reasonably requested and provide information and assistance to HSRs. HSRs need to attend accredited HSR training within 3 months of them requesting it. Wages and course fees must be paid by the employer and time off must be allowed. After HSRs receive the training, they may direct work groups to cease unsafe work. This is generally confined to the workgroup they represent, but they need to consult with the PCBU first following the dispute resolution procedures unless the risk is high enough not to consult prior to. If work has stopped due to unsafe work, workers are only paid their wages if they carry out alternative work being reasonable suitable duties. HSRs may get excited because they can also issue provisional improvement notices (PINs), but there are some things they must do prior to issuing a PIN.

They must have undertaken the HSR training and consulted prior to going down the PIN path. If you get a PIN, you must be given at least 8 days to comply, display the notice in a prominent place near the affected area and it’s a legal requirement to comply. So, does a leopard change it’s spots? OHS Reps do – a new and improved model. The Safety Nerd x

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