What is a PIN?
A PIN is a Provisional Improvement Notice as per Victoria's Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004). This is a formal notice from a Health and Safety Representative to his employer or employer representative advising them that there is a health or safety problem at work. It is used where consultation between the Health and Safety Rep and the employer/employer rep does not resolve the problem.
WorkSafe has produced a proforma PIN which satisfies the requirements of the 2004 OHS Act. A PDF of the PIN can can be downloaded from the WorkSafe website here. Reps DO NOT have to use the WorkSafe form to issue a PIN, and can choose to use an alternative, such as the VTHC proforma PIN. Both forms will help reps to provide all the relevant information that is required to issue a valid PIN. Guidance on how to complete the PIN is provided on the back of the WorkSafe form.
Hard copy WorkSafe PIN forms in triplicate may also be ordered through the Advisory Service [9641 1444 (toll free 1800 136 089)] or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
When to use a PIN
The VTHC believes PINs should be used whenever consultations over an occupational health or safety problem have not been successful. Don't be fooled by agreeing to refer urgent safety problems to the health and safety committee - it is not the role of the health and safety committee to resolve DWG specific issues, and in any case, it may not meet for weeks.
Remember, for very urgent problems, don't use a PIN but use your rights under Section 74 of the Act. As the elected rep you have the right under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act to direct that work cease in cases of immediate risk. A rep must consult with the employer prior to issuing such a direction, but can go ahead with it even if the employer does not agree. (See Resolution of Issues)
On top of this provision in the OHS Act, remember that every worker has a common law right to withdraw themselves from an unreasonable threat to their health or safety.
Is there a health and safety problem in your workplace?
If you're the health and safety representative (HSR) for your designated work group (DWG) and you think there's a health and safety problem that needs to be fixed in your DWG or wherever a member of your DWG works, you must talk to your employer/ employer rep about what the problem is and ask them to fix it, before you do anything else. (See Resolution of Issues)
A health and safety issue or problem can be any item in the general duties of the OHS Act, any hazard or potential hazard, or any procedural issue relating to health and safety (for example, anything under Part 4 - Duty to Consult , Part 7 - Representation of Employees).
Just because there is a health and safety issue in your DWG, this doesn't necessarily mean that there is a "dispute". In fact, most health and safety issues and problems can and should be fixed by raising them with management, consultation, negotiation and agreement.
However, if your employer doesn't want to meet with you, doesn't agree that there is a problem, doesn't/won't fix it, or keeps putting it off, then OHS Act (Section 60) gives you the right to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN). This is a very important right and you must make sure that you take all the necessary steps and fill the form in properly.
So what to do if there's a problem in your workplace:
Take the following steps:
1 - You must talk to your employer/employer rep and ask for the problem to be fixed.
This is the best thing to do anyway, because talking about problems as soon as you know about them helps communication between you in your role as the HSR, and your employer. It also gives you the chance to discuss the solution with your employer before it is implemented.
However, if you've talked to your employer, and the problem doesn't get fixed in a reasonable time or he or she doesn't agree that there is a problem (but you still do), the next step is to consider issuing a PIN. Follow the Issue Resolution Procedures - either those in the Act and Regulations or your AGREED workplace procedures.
2 - You can issue a PIN if you think that the problem is:
- is contravening any provision of the OHS Act or any of the Regulations; or
- has contravened them, and it is likely that the contravention will continue or be repeated.
How to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice:
A PIN is a legal direction so you need to get it right! Here's what you do:
- Inform your employer or employer representative you will issue a PIN if the problem you have already raised with him or her does not get fixed. Under the 2004 Act, the rep can issue a PIN only after consulting about remedying the contravention or likely contravention (Section 60). In order to assist HSRs, the VTHC has developed a 'Record of Consultation' form - download it here, fill it in, copy it, give a copy to your employer and keep it one for yourself. This can then be used to prove that you have consulted with your employer on the matter prior to then issuing a PIN.
- Fill in the boxes or spaces on the PIN.
- NOTE: WorkSafe inspectors are judging PINs invalid if they are not addressed to the EMPLOYER (ie the name of the company or department). Do not address the PIN to the manager in charge of the site (even if this is the general manager or the principal of the school).
- You must write down your reasons for issuing the PIN, and you must specify which part (or parts) of the Act or its Regulations is being broken, or has been broken, or is likely to keep on being broken, or is likely to be broken again. (Contact your union for help with this if you are not sure).
- You can only deal with one problem or issue at a time on a PIN. If there are a few different problems, like plant maintenance, use of chemicals, and consultation, you need to write three separate PINs. If more than one issue is listed on a PIN, and the employer challenges it, then it is likely that the Inspector will rule that it is invalid.
- Put down a date by which you want the problem fixed. This has at least eight days - after the day when you wrote the PIN and gave it to the employer.
- You may write down how you think the problem or likely problem can be fixed (but you don't have to do this).
- Sign the PIN and ask your employer or employer rep to sign the PIN, to show that they have seen it. It doesn't matter if he or she doesn't sign the PIN - it is still valid.
- Give the employer or employer rep a copy of the PIN. When you do this, remind them that they have to do something about the PIN within the time you've given them. This can be either to fix the problem, or to ask a WorkSafe Inspector to come to the workplace. (Sections 62 & 63).
Note: a PIN can be served in any of the following ways:
- delivered personally
- by facsimile (fax)
- left at the "person's" workplace
- by post
- left at the "person's" home
- left at the workplace to which the PIN relates
- by email (NOTE: the OHS Act was amended in September 2018 to allow HSRs to email PINs without getting prior consent from the person they are emailing it to)
If your employer calls in a WorkSafe Inspector, that Inspector is required by law to speak with you, the rep who issued the PIN. If this does not happen, contact your Union. If the employer simply ignores the PIN, then he or she is breaking the law and may be taken to court by WorkSafe. The Inspector investigates the matter and can affirm, modify or cancel the PIN. The Inspector must also advise all parties of their right to seek a review of his or her decision with regard to the notice under Part 10 of the Act. (Section 111[e]) More information on Reviewable Decisions.
- Keep a copy of the PIN for your own records, and a copy for your union's health and safety officer.
Bringing the PIN to the attention of workers
Under the 2004 Act, a person to whom a PIN has been issued must:
- If the person is an employee, bring it to the attention of his or her employer
- If the person is not an employee, or is an employer, must bring the PIN to the attention of every person whose work is affected by it, AND display a copy of the PIN in a prominent place at or near the workplace.
What if nothing happens by the date you gave?
If the problem you put the PIN on hasn't been fixed by the date you gave, and a WorkSafe Inspector hasn't come to your workplace about it, ring the nearest WorkSafe office and ask to talk to an Inspector.
Call your union to inform them of the situation, and that you have rung WorkSafe and talked to an Inspector.
- More information on Provisional Improvement Notices [pdf] which has advice for HSRs
- WorkSafe Victoria Inspectors - This document provides information about how WorkSafe OHS inspectors deal with specific issues when performing their functions, including investigating a disputed or non-complied with PIN.
The 2004 Act can be downloaded (in both pdf and Word format) on the Victorian government legislation repository website - Victorian Law Today - and searching for the Act.
Last updated October 2018