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Effective Members of Your Health & Safety Committee

Weekly WHS Article 8th June 2023

Members of an organisation’s Health and Safety Committee can bring important skills and experience in their workplace to the committee from their position as a worker, HSR, supervisor or manager in the company. They may also need to increase their knowledge, understanding and skills in order to do well in the committee.

The individual knowledge, understanding and skills of all your Health and Safety Committee members needs to be up to the expectations of what the Health and Safety Committee is meant to do and the level of involvement in contributing to decisions relating to health and safety in the workplace. Other than HSCs that are put together for specific or temporary WHS projects, HSCs in NSW usually cover the workplace as a whole.

Per Section 77 of the WHS Act, there are three areas that the Health and Safety Committee could be involved with in relation to the big WHS decisions of the organisation. They are;

a) to facilitate co-operation between the person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) and workers in instigating, developing and carrying out measures designed to ensure the workers’ health and safety at work, and

b) to assist in developing standards, rules and procedures relating to health and safety that are to be followed or complied with at the workplace, and

c) any other functions prescribed by the regulations or agreed between the PCBU and the committee.

In a) above, the HSC serves as the meeting point for the management representatives and worker representatives, including your Health and Safety Representatives who have also elected to participate on the HSC, to collaborate on the health and safety matters in the workplace that the organisation needs to present for consultation. The phrase used in the WHS legislation to introduce the functions of an HSC is to “facilitate cooperation between the PCBU and workers…”

In b) above, an HSC and its members will be called upon to contribute to the instigation, development, and carrying out of measures that ensure a safe workplace. They will be involved in these actions and will be asked to contribute. Fortunately, HSC members appear to have an innate desire to help others. What they say as an HSC member is important.

Committee members are required to be involved in helping with the development of company standards, rules, and procedures for eventual implementation and compliance. The organisation cannot just come up with rules and regulations off its own bat. It must consult with its workforce. A HSC member is expected to be able to talk about these things and offer valuable contributions to help the business achieve these policy goals.

In c) above, HSCs may be carrying out actions that have been newly introduced in WHS regulations, although as of 2023 there are no "other functions" prescribed for a HSC. Actions to be agreed between the PCBU and the HSC must align with the PCBU's duty to consult workers on matters of health and safety as per Sections 46-40 of the WHS Act. An HSC has no operational role. Operational management of the WHS system is the duty and responsibility of the officers of the PCBU. Officers may be accountable personally for a breach. An HSC is for advice and information from the workforce to senior management.

If you are a new member of your HSC, your on-the-job-training may not fully cover what you need to know in order to participate effectively as a Health and Safety Committee member. Courtenell offers training for HSC members, new or experienced.

An HSC whose members are able to positively contribute to facilitating cooperation between the PCBU and the employees that results in improved health and safety is an asset to any organisation.

8th June 2023

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