By Joanna Weekes
Health and safety representatives (HSRs) are an important part of any safety management system.
HSRs have important functions that include things like:
- representing workers in their work group in health and safety matters;
- monitoring health and safety measures implemented by their company;
- investigating complaints from their work group relating to health and safety; and
- looking into potential health and safety risks in their workplace.
While being an HSR is a very important role, it is not a full-time job. The HSR role is a responsibility a worker takes on in addition to their everyday job.
As an employer, your company has certain obligations it needs to fulfil in terms of its HSRs – do you know what they are? If not, then you may not be complying with health and safety legislation.
What are your duties to HSRs?
Depending on which jurisdiction you operate in, you may have the following obligations to your HSRs:
- To consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, on health and safety matters in relation to the HSR’s workgroup.
- To confer, whenever reasonably requested, to ensure the health and safety of the workers in the HSR’s workgroup.
- To allow the HSR to have access to information relating to hazards (including associated risks) in the workplace.
- To allow the HSR to be present during an interview concerning health and safety between a worker and an inspector (with the consent of the worker).
- To provide any resources, facilities or assistance to the HSR for the workgroup that are reasonably necessary to enable the representative to exercise their powers to perform their functions under the WHS Act.
- To allow a person assisting an HSR for the workgroup to have access to the workplace if that is necessary to enable assistance to be provided (e.g. a union representative).
- To permit an HSR to accompany an inspector during an inspection of the workplace where the workgroup works.
- To maintain and display an up-to-date list of each HSR and deputy HSR for each workgroup.
- To permit the HSR, upon request, to attend training in health and safety that:• is approved by the safety regulator;
• the HSR is entitled to attend under the WHS Act; and
• the HSR chooses after consulting you.
You must enable HSRs to carry out their functions or you may be charged with an offence.
Remember, it is unlawful to dismiss, or discriminate against an employee because they:
- make a complaint about a workplace safety issue;
- are a member of a health and safety committee; or
- are an HSR.