What is an elected OHS Rep entitled to?
The Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act, 2004 states that the employer shall:
permit health and safety representatives to take such time off work with pay as is necessary or prescribed by the regulations for:
- Exercising his or her powers under this Part; or
- Taking part in any course of training (other than a course of training covered by section 67) relating to occupational health and safety which is approved by or conducted by the Authority; and of which the employer is given at least 14 days' notice;
- Provide such other facilities and assistance to health and safety representatives as are necessary or prescribed by the regulations to enable the representative to exercise his or her powers under this Act.
At this stage, there are no regulations on time off or the provision of facilities and assistance, so specifics of these must be negotiated at the workplace. However, WorkSafe's Employee Representation guide makes it clear how this should work:
"The guiding principle is for the HSR not to be disadvantaged in any way for taking on the role of HSR. WorkSafe's position on payment is that the HSR, when exercising their powers as an HSR or performing any of the functions the OHS Act gives them, must be paid as if at work, including shift or other allowances to which an employee is entitled." (p33)
- Paid time off to attend training - see the separate information on Reps' right to training
- The powers of an OHS rep which require time to carry out are:
- Consultation with members of DWG and the employer [Part 4 - Sections 35 & 36]
- Inspection of the workplace after giving reasonable notice to the employer or immediately in the event of an accident or hazardous situation [Section 58(1)(a)]
- Accompanying an Inspector during an inspection of the workplace [Section 58(1)(b)]
- Being present at an interview between an employee and either an Inspector or the employer, provided the employee consents [Section 58(1)(d) Section 69(2)]
- Monitoring measures taken by the employer to comply with the Act or regulations [Section 58(2)(b)]
- Enquiring into risks [Section 58(2)(c)]
- Attempting to resolve an OHS issues with the employer [Section 58(2)(d)]
- To access to information held by the employer relating to actual or potential hazards and the health and safety of employees [Section 69(1)]
Note under Section 69 (2): an individual's medical information cannot be supplied unless the employee consents, or its form does not allow identification of the individual)
Attendance at meetings:
- Of the OHS committee (note, the 2004 Act states that employee members of the OHS committee should 'so far as practicable, (be) health and safety representatives or deputy health and safety representatives' ).
- With both members of the DWG.
- With other OHS Reps.
- With the employer.
Attendance at these meetings should also be in paid time.
The actual amount of time which the employer should allow a rep for exercising his or her powers is not specified and must be negotiated between the employer and the reps. This may include a combination of both allocated time and then extra time as required given that there may be periods/weeks when an HSR may be involved in more meetings, inspections, and so on.
However, because the Act places an obligation on the employer to provide 'such time as is necessary', if your employer does not give you reasonable time to carry out regular inspections, to meet with your DWG members, and so in, your employer is in breach of s69 of the Act. This means that you are entitled to issue a PIN over this matter. Contact your union if you need advice.
While there are no regulations on facilities, WorkSafe lists the following as examples of the facilities the employer might provide:
- Access to a private room, desk and chair for discussions or interviews.
- Facilities for filing such as a lock up filing cabinet and shelves.
- Ready access to a telephone, the internet and e-mail.
- Access to word processing and photocopying facilities.
- Access to meeting rooms for meetings of health and safety reps and meetings of workers in the DWG.
- Access to relevant technical equipment.
- Use of noticeboards.
- Transport or travel expenses to commute between workplaces, if required.
Note Some employers have denied reps the right to access to the internet during work hours. This issue has been raised a number of times with WorkSafe. Due to increasing information, including WorkSafe publications, available on the internet, a rep is seriously disadvantaged if unable to use it.
WorkSafe now has a policy position on this: Supporting Health and Safety Representative access to health and safety information via the internet
If there is internet access at your workplace, and your employer refuses to allow you as a rep to have reasonable access to it, despite the advice in the above publication, then the VTHC advises you to contact your union, and consider issuing a PIN. If your employer challenges the PIN, then make sure you speak to the inspector who will be coming out to your workplace. For advice on your position, Ask Renata or contact your union.
Contact your union for more information and advice, or if you are having problems regarding time off or facilities.
Last amended June 2020