Health and Safety Representatives FAQs
Health and safety representatives (HSRs)
The purpose of these FAQs are to provide information and guidance on the University’s consultation framework and the Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislative requirements for consultation to assist to meet the requirements of the University Health, Safety and Wellbeing (HSW) Policy.
How can elected Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) assist with consultation?
Although supervisors are the main point of contact for workers to discuss HSW matters, and are required to consult with workers, HSRs can assist by providing a vehicle for consultation and a mechanism for workers to raise, have input into and resolve HSW issues.
HSRs can assist as they:
- are likely to understand the views and concerns of the worker and/or workgroup;
- are likely to have a good understanding of how to report a safety issue including through the HSW Online Reporting System,
- are likely to have a good understanding of the legislative requirements through their attendance at approved training courses;
- have specific powers under the WHS Act 2012 when elected in the role which enables them to:
- monitor the measures taken by the Supervisor/Person in control of the area/activity to resolve an issue;
- investigate complaints from members of the workgroup relating to work health and safety;
- enquire into anything that appears to be a risk to the health or safety of workers (e.g. unsafe work practices) and to be involved in incident investigations.
Elected Health and Safety Representatives may also choose to be a member of the HSW Committee.
Being a member of the committee will complement the role as it allows the HSR to be involved in HSW matters across the whole Faculty/Division/School/Branch (as applicable), rather than just the workgroup.
What powers and functions do elected Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) have?
To assist HSRs represent their workgroup on HSW matters, HSRs can:
- inspect the workplace at any time after giving reasonable notice or at any time without notice if there is an incident or immediate risk;
- investigate complaints on health, safety or welfare made by members of the workgroup;
- raise any issue affecting the health, safety or welfare of members of the workgroup;
- have access to information about hazards and risks to health and safety that may arise, in any work or from any plant or substances;
- be consulted about proposed changes to the work, the workplace, plant or substances used, which may affect the health, safety or welfare of workers;
- be consulted about policies, practices and procedures on health, safety and welfare, and on any proposed changes to these;
- be provided with facilities and assistance to enable them perform their functions;
- accompany an inspector of SafeWork SA during an inspection of the workplace at which a worker in the workgroup works;
- with the consent of worker(s) that the HSR represents, be present at an interview concerning WHS between:
- the worker(s) and a SafeWork SA inspector; or
- the employer or the person’s representative;
- receive information concerning the WHS of workers in the workgroup;
- where necessary, request the assistance of any person.
After receiving approved training, HSRs can:
- direct the cessation of work where there is a serious or imminent risk to a member of their workgroup;
- issue provisional improvement notices (PINs) to address a contravention of the WHS Act 2012.
Are elected Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) entitled to an allowance?
No, HSRS act in a voluntary capacity representing their workgroup on HSW issues. There is no allowance for undertaking HSR duties however HSRs and deputy HSRs are entitled to undertake training. All reasonable costs of attending the course and all time to attend the training must be paid by the School/ Branch/ Faculty/ Division.
Any time that a HSR spends for the purposes of exercising his or her powers or performing his or her functions including training must be with the pay that he or she would otherwise be entitled to receive for performing his or her normal duties during that period.
What protections do I have in performing my role as a Health and Safety Representative (HSR)?
What protections do I have in performing my role as Health and Safety Representative (HSR)?
HSRs have the ability to exercise certain powers and functions once they have received mandatory training. The WHS Act 2012 does not impose mandatory obligations or duties on a HSR to use these powers and functions. They are at their discretion.
The WHS Act 2012 states that employers cannot discriminate against a HSR for performing any of their functions.
HSRs are immune from prosecution under the WHS Act 2012 when performing their role. They cannot be held personally liable and cannot be prosecuted for anything done or omitted to be done in good faith when exercising a power or performing a function under the WHS Act 2012, or in the reasonable belief that the thing done or omitted to be done was authorised under the WHS Act 2012. Acting in good faith involves carrying out HSR powers and functions with honest and sincere intentions or beliefs.
A HSR may be removed from their position by a majority of the members of the workgroup or may be disqualified by the SA Employment Tribunal if they have exercised a power or performed a function as a HSR for an improper purpose. It is recommended that HSRs attend training as soon as possible after being elected to enable them to understand their role and be more effective in it.
How are Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) elected?
A structure of Designated Workgroups (DWGs) has been agreed between the University and the NTEU. The agreed DWGs aim to:
• maximise access to a range of elected HSR’s by staff;
• ensure all staff are included in a DWG;
• minimise the disruption of workgroup structures when minor structural change occurs;
• minimise the impact of staff movement within the University creating vacant HSR positions.
As Deputy HSRs only have access to their powers when the duly elected HSR is not present or available, a decision was made not to use them at the University as it can cause confusion. Under the University structure, some DWGs have multiple HSRs and staff can choose which one they approach or use. Where a DWG has only one HSR who is away the staff are free to approach a HSR from another DWG. All HSRs have the power to represent workers in their DWG or in the absence of a HSR across multiple DWGs.
Only if the number of nominations exceeds the number of vacant positions will an election be held. Refer to the Health & Safety Representatives and HSW Consultation Chapter for further information on the election process.
When are elections necessary?
As the Representative has a term of office of three years, elections will need to occur every three years. The outgoing HSR is eligible for nomination. A new election will also be needed if:
- a HSR resigns or ceases to be a member of the workgroup that elected them (through transfer, dismissal, promotion, leaving the job, or any other reason);
- the workgroups are re-organised or their composition changes significantly;
- a majority of members of the workgroup decide to remove the HSR from the position to elect a new representative.
The HSW Team monitor the term of expiry for HSRs (three years) and will advise the workgroup when a new election process is required. A subsequent election should be organised so the time the workgroup is unrepresented is minimised.
Can I resign as Health and Safety Representatives (HSR)?
How do I book into Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) training?
HSRs are entitled to attend approved HSR training to help develop the skills needed to effectively carry out their role. It is recommended that HSRs attend their training as soon as possible after being elected. HSRs who have not completed the required training cannot issue PINs or direct the cessation of unsafe work.
A HSR’s training entitlements during their three-year term of office are First year - five days; Second year – three days; Third year – two days. A list of SafeWork SA approved training providers and a training calendar is available at SafeWork SA website.
As soon as possible after an election, the HSW central team will provide SafeWork SA with information about elected HSRs. SafeWork SA will then send the HSRs their own HSR ID which gives them access the portal and can be used when they apply for HSR training with an approved training provider.
Where can I find more information on HSW Consultation requirements?
Refer to the Health & Safety Representatives and HSW Consultation Chapter, the Health and Safety Consultation Information Sheet and the University of Adelaide HSR Portal for further information.
If you require further information, please contact a member of the HSW Team
Please contact your local HSW team.