One of the very important powers of elected health and safety representatives is to inspect the workplace (where members of the DWG work) - and HSRs should do this at regular intervals and in the event of an incident which could place someone at immediate risk.
Section 58 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act states:
- A health and safety representative for a designated work group (DWG) may do any of the following -
(a) inspect any part of a workplace at which a member of the designated work group works
(i) at any time after giving reasonable notice to the employer concerned or its representative; and
(ii) immediately in the event of an incident or any situation involving an immediate risk to the health or safety of any person.
While doing an inspection, the HSR should use the opportunity not only to look at the workplace, (for example check out plant, equipment, machinery, chemicals, workstations, and so on), but also speak to DWG members to assist in the identification of non-physical hazards.
In order to assist reps, we have available a number of Checklists - all in a format that can be downloaded, amended and saved.
WorkSafe Victoria, the OHS regulator, has advice for employers: Do Your Own Inspection. While this advice seems to be targetted to 'small employers' it does not state that consultation is a legal requirement. All employers have a duty to consult with any elected health and safety representatives at all stages - that is, in the identification of hazards and risks, in the assessment of the risks, and when making decisions about how to control them. If there is no elected HSR in the workplace, then the employer must consult with the affected employees.
What this advice does state is:
Start by talking. It's a legal requirement that safety is discussed in workplaces, and you gain great insights into safety issues and solutions from your workers.
It then links to the WorkSafe publication Guide to Consultation, which details when and with whom consultation is required.
The WorkSafe advice on doing inspections should also be read and used by HSRs.
Last amended January 2015