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"Any other functions" of a Health and Safety Committee must be consistent with consultation requirements of the WHS Act

Weekly WHS Article 8th March 2023


For some businesses, government bodies, and other organisations, a health and safety committee (HSC) may be a valuable resource to help the business consult with the workforce on matters of health and safety.


In larger businesses, government bodies, and other organisations, a health and safety committee may help facilitate discussions between management and HSRs and to help HSRs coordinate with each other. A health and safety committee consists of representatives from management and representatives for the workers. Often the worker reps on the committee are also the HSRs.


Functions of a Health & Safety Committee

The functions of a health and safety committee are described in Section 77a and 77b of the WHS Act. Its role is to help with “… instigating, developing and carrying out measures designed to ensure the worker’s health and safetyand “… to assist in developing standards, rules and procedures relating to health and safety that are to be followed or complied with at the workplace.


In addition to the above, Section 77c also states that a health and safety committee can be involved in “…any other functions prescribed by the regulations or agreed between the person conducting the business or undertaking and the committee.


As of 2023 there are no "other functions” (duties) prescribed for WHS committees in the WHS Regulation 2017.


So what “other functions” can an HSC be involved in that also complies with the requirements of the WHS Act?


The answer is in Section 47 of the WHS Act:


(2) If the person conducting the business or undertaking and the workers have agreed to procedures for consultation, the consultation must be in accordance with those procedures.

(3) The agreed procedures must not be inconsistent with section 48.


Section 48 of the WHS Act describes how a PCBU must consult on health and safety matters. A health and safety committee may be able to help with that. Any actions of the committee to help the PCBU consult on health and safety matters would need to be “…agreed between the person conducting the business or undertaking and the committee.”


Sometimes the purpose of a health and safety committee can be confused or misunderstood resulting in the committee being given actions or activities that otherwise belong to specific duty holders. WHS duties are not transferrable nor sub-contractable.


A health and safety committee has no "operational" functions nor any “authority.” Operational responsibilities and actions fall on the leadership team including the supervisors and managers of the business, government body, or other organisations, as covered in Part 2 of the WHS Act, “Health and Safety Duties.” It is the supervisors and managers who oversee and supervise day-to-day operations which includes ensuring staff follow rules and safety protocols. Supervisors and managers are on the job - every hour of every day. Officers of the business (Directors, CEOs, GMs, etc) must ensure this is happening.


Per Section 77c and Sections 47 and 48 of the WHS Act, a health and safety committee may also help the PCBU to consult with the workforce on WHS matters.


Any help the PCBU can be given to have current information and maintain a safe work environment is good help. A Health & Safety Committee that is committed and functioning effectively as a team can be a source of significant contributions that help a PCBU achieve a safe and healthy workplace.





8th March 2023








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