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The Awesome Potential of a Health & Safety Committee

Weekly WHS Article 2nd June 2021

Who can be Members of a Health & Safety Committee?

In NSW workplaces it is now quite common to find one or more HSRs who are also members of the Health & Safety Committee. That means those committees are composed of;

1. management representatives,

2. workers, and

3. one or more health and safety representatives

As advised on page 20 of the Code of Practice: Work Health & Safety Consultation, Cooperation, and Coordination;

“Health and safety representatives may choose to be members of the health and safety committee. In total, at least half of the members of the committee must be workers who are not nominated by management.”

As advised on page 21 of the Code of Practice;

  • “When a workplace has both a health and safety committee and health and safety representatives then there should be a clear distinction between their roles.

  • Health and safety representatives are involved with the specific health and safety issues relevant to the work group they represent.

  • While health and safety representatives are also entitled to be on a health and safety committee (but are not obliged to do so) the health and safety committee is the forum for consultation on the management of health and safety across the whole workforce. It should consider the development, implementation and review of the policies and procedures associated with the organisation’s work health and safety system.

“If the workplace has a health and safety committee but does not have health and safety representatives, the committee may agree to consider the issues a health and safety representative would be consulted on.”

Management Commitment and Open Communication

As advised on page 13 of the Code of Practice;

“Management commitment and open communication between managers and workers is important in achieving effective consultation. Your workers are more likely to engage in consultation when their knowledge and ideas are actively sought and concerns about health and safety are taken seriously.”

What are the Functions of a Health and Safety Committee?

These functions are covered in the WHS Act, section 77. As advised on page 27 of Safe Work Australia’s guide, Worker Representation and Participation Guide;

“The functions HSCs can perform are broad. HSCs can consider the management of health and safety across the whole workforce. In this way, the activities of the HSC can complement the role of the HSRs, whose powers are usually limited to issues affecting their particular work group.”

“HSC functions include:

  • facilitating co-operation between the PCBU and workers to instigate, develop and carry out measures to secure the work health and safety of workers

  • assisting in developing health and safety standards, rules and procedures that will be followed or complied with at the workplace

  • other functions agreed by the PCBU and members of the HSC.”

“For example, an HSC can be involved with:

  • the formulation of agreed procedures, such as issue resolution procedures and the committee’s own procedures

  • analysing reports of hazards, work-related incidents and statistical trends, so that reports can be made to management

  • making recommendations for corrective action

  • examining health and safety audit or monitoring reports

  • considering reports and information provided by inspectors

  • considering reports that HSRs may wish to submit

  • developing procedures for selecting new plant for the workplace

  • assistance in the development of safe working procedures

  • linking with workers’ compensation and return to work programs

  • the selection of consultants.”

A trained and motivated committee could have an awesome potential to create changes for the better in health and safety in their workplace.

The Awesome Potential of a Health & Safe
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2nd June 2021

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