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HSRs and Health & Safety Committees

Weekly WHS Article 2nd June 2021 (3-minute read)

In NSW workplaces it is quite common that many, most, or even all of the worker representatives on a health and safety committee are also HSRs who represent workers in workgroups that have been established within the workplace for purpose of WHS consultation. Health and safety committees are an additional tier of WHS consultation between the business and workers. An HSC's membership consists of:

1. representatives of the PCBU (business entity)

2. representatives of the workers.

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.

What are the Functions of a Health and Safety Committee?

What a health and safety committee is concerned with is clearly described in Sections 77a and 77b of the NSW WHS Act 2011.

Further to that, as advised on page 27 of Safe Work Australia’s guide, Worker Representation and Participation Guide;

“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.”

HSRs are entitled to formal training as Health and Safety Representatives for their workgroups. They may also benefit from HSC-specific training if they are also members of the health and safety committee. If you are interested in further supporting your HSRs with WHS training please feel free to contact Courtenell.

2nd June 2021


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