The safety issue resolution procedure at our workplace is rubbish. Any advice on how we can fix it?

An agreed Safety Issue resolution Procedure needs to 'agreed'. If you and your DWG are unhappy with the current procedure, simply withdraw your agreement. If either the employer or most employees are unsatisfied with an agreed procedure, they can withdraw their agreement, and the OHS Regulations will apply until a new one is established.

There are two commonly observed problems with bespoke, or agreed, safety issue resolution procedures:

  1. A requirement to escalate the issue up through layers of management, and then sometimes even an ‘advisory line’ creating unacceptable delays. The procedure in the regs simply requires; ‘identify the relevant parties to the discussion – have the discussion - is the issue resolved? – yes/no’. It's a much more expedited process

  2. The absence of any mention of the HSRs power to direct that work cease, issue a PIN or seek the assistance of the regulator

Chapter 10 of WorkSafe’s Employee Representation Guide deals with section 73 of our OHS Act – resolution of safety issues - in considerable detail and in plain language and is worth sharing (perhaps with your HSC).

It advises: the aim of an agreed procedure should be the prompt and effective resolution of all health and safety issues as they arise. Ideally, in real-time.

If there's a Health and Safety Committee (HSC), it could be the platform used to establish an issue resolution procedure. Among its duties, an HSC is responsible for creating, reviewing, and disseminating standards, rules, and procedures related to OHS at the workplace.

Even if the HSC isn't directly involved in developing the procedure, it's advisable to present it for consultation and endorsement, first to the HSC, then to HSRs, and finally to all employees. See section.72(3) of the Act. 

Agreed procedures outline the steps to resolve health and safety issues at work. They should offer practical guidance and aim for a timely resolution. These procedures must meet four criteria:

  • Agreement: All parties, including the employer, HSRs, and employees, must genuinely agree to the procedure. It shouldn't be imposed by one party or result from a flawed agreement process.
  • Process: The procedure must outline steps for resolving issues but not dictate the outcomes.
  • Facilitation: It should aid in issue resolution, not just serve as a notification process.
  • Health and safety focus: The procedure should specifically address health and safety issues, not general grievances or complaints unless agreed upon.

Additionally, agreed procedures must align with the OHS Act. They cannot,  for instance, diminish the powers of an HSR under the Act.

If a procedure doesn't meet these criteria, WorkSafe doesn't recognise it as agreed.

If an inspector finds an inadequate or non-agreed procedure, they'll notify the relevant parties and state this in their report. Until a new procedure is agreed upon, the OHS Regulations will apply.

The inspector will offer guidance on developing new agreed procedures or modifying existing ones to meet the criteria.

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