OHS reps - your rights

Occupational (or workplace) health and safety is covered by health and safety laws - in Victoria, this is the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004).

However, parts of other laws can also apply. These are:

  • Fair Work Act [includes the health and safety laws in the definition of workplace rights - section 340: workplace rights apply to Health and Safety laws]

  • Common law: everyone has a common law right to refuse to perform immediately unsafe work;
  • Workers compensation laws; and

  • Privacy laws, Anti discrimination laws.

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Downloadable poster of HSRs rights & powers

We have created two posters for HSRs to download, to print off and place in your workplace, to highlight the rights of HSRs.

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What is a health and safety representative?

An OHS rep (or an HSR) is a person elected by the workers to represent them on any and all occupational health and safety matters.  To be an effective rep, that person must be supported by the members of the Designated Work Group. A good and effective rep listens to and consults with their members.

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Rights of an elected health and safety representative (HSR)

Health and Safety Representatives Rights and Powers
(remember as an HSR you still have your rights and obligations as a worker)
What you can do; the rights you have Which section of the Victorian OHS Act or Regulations

HSRs have the power to conduct inspections and be notified of any WorkSafe inspections. 

You have the power to inspect part of a workplace where a member of your designated work group (DWG) works:  

  • At any time after giving the employer or its representative reasonable notice 
  • Immediately in the event of an incident/situation involving an immediate risk to the health or safety of any person 

See section 58 (1)(a)(i)(ii) 


HSRs have the right to be notified by WorkSafe of any inspection and accompany WorkSafe Inspectors while they conduct an inspection of a workplace where a member of the HSRs DWG works. 

See section 58 (1)(b) 


HSRs have the right to be given a written report by the WorkSafe Inspector after the inspection.  

See section 103 (1)(b), (2)(a)-(f) 

Where possible it’s a good idea for you and your employer to agree on the number and type of workplace inspections. There are multiple types of inspections you can conduct as a HSR. They may include: 

  • Regular general inspections 
  • Regular inspections of particular activities, processes or areas 
  • Inspections arising from workers complaints 
  • Inspections after substantial changes to the workplace,  
  • Inspections after an accident or dangerous incident. 

After an inspection, you should report to the employer about any health or safety issue identified during the inspection. The report should be in writing, although hazards that need quick action should be verbally reported immediately and followed up in writing at a later date.  

As a HSR, you should also inform members of your DWG about any workplace hazards and potential risks identified during the inspection.  

Checklists can be useful when carrying out workplace inspections. A fixed checklist of items can be limiting, so keep it open-ended and make sure it covers the nature of potential hazards and the level of risk. A list of potential problems with their consequences may reveal a range from minor to serious.  

HSRs can discuss the completed checklist with the employer to help identify solutions to the identified hazards. 

WorkSafe Inspections may visit the workplace at any time and HSRs have the power to contact WorkSafe and request a visit by an inspector. HSRs have a right to see the inspection report which must include:  

  • The time of entry and departure 
  • The purpose of the entry 
  • A description of things done while at the place 
  • A summary of the inspector’s observations while at the workplace 
  • The procedure for contacting WorkSafe and the Inspector for further details of the entry 
  • The procedure for seeking a review of any decision made by the inspector during the entry. 

If an inspection occurs when you are not present, as an HSR you are entitled to a copy of the entry report which can be obtained either from your employer or WorkSafe. 

After the inspection is completed, HSRs can apply for a review of a range of inspector’s decisions (or non-decisions).  

Take photographs or measurements or make sketches or recordings.

You have the power to: 

  • Take photographs 
  • Take measurements 
  • Make sketches 
  • Take recordings  

At any part of a workplace where a member of your DWG works to collect evidence of a hazard or risk in the workplace. 

See section 58 (1)(ab)

This is an important power all HSRs have and it is a vital step in collecting evidence of a hazard or risk in the workplace.  

HSRs are not able to exercise these powers when participating in an interview between an employee member they represent and an inspector or the employer. 

HSRs do not have to obtain permission from their employer to take recordings or images of the workplace for the purposes of discharging or performing their role as an HSR. However, in circumstances where taking photographs of a workplace is restricted or prohibited because of the operation of some other legislation, that other legislation is likely to prevail. This includes high security workplaces such as courts, prisons, airports and the line.  

Where possible we recommend HSRs use their personal devices to take photographs or recordings rather than an employer provided work phone, but remind HSRs they still need to be mindful of their employer’s industrial policies such as those around carrying and using personal mobile phones. 

Health and safety committees (HSCs) 

HSRs can require their employer establish a health and safety committee at the workplace and participate in the HSC on behalf of members of their DWG. 

See section 58 (1)(c) 


Employers must establish a health and safety committee within 3 months of the HSR’s request or if required by the Regulations to do so.  

See section 72 (1)(a)(b) 

Health and safety committees play an important role in planning and developing policies and procedures that improve health and safety outcomes across the entire workplace. They have very different functions to the role of HSR so a workplace with good OHS structures has HSRs and a HSC.  

Employers are required to consult on the membership of the committee, and at least half of the committee must be employees (typically HSRs and Deputy HSRs). Under the Act, HSCs must meet at least once every 3 months or when at least half of its members require a meeting.  

See section 72 (3)(a)-(c) for the functions of the HSC. 

See section 72 (4)(a)(b) for requirements of the HSC. 


HSRs have the right to attend any interview between a member of your DWG and the employer or WorkSafe Inspector. 


See section 58 (1)(d) and section 69 (1)(v)(i)(ii)

HSRs are a huge support to members of their DWG. If a member of your DWG agrees, you can attend an OHS-related meeting as a representative between the member of your DWG and the employer or WorkSafe Inspector. 

You also have the right to seek assistance from any person (including your union) during this process. 

Investigate the scene and details of a workplace incident 

HSRs have the power to immediately investigate the scene and details of any incident or risk of serious injury or harm to any person in the workplace where a member of your DWG works. 

See section 58 (2)(d) 

After a workplace incident has occurred, the employer must take immediate steps to prevent the incident from happening again. Then the employer should notify you immediately after the incident. Depending on the situation, you may choose to investigate on your own or agree to a joint investigation with the employer. 

Examples of incidents you may need to investigate include: 

  • An incident that could have caused fatal or serious injuries  
  • An encounter with a client with challenging behaviours that can cause harm 
  • A falling object landing close to an employee 
  • Failure of a sling or lifting device 
  • Uncontrolled release of a hazardous chemical or substance 
  • Spillage resulting from failed valves, connections or hoses 
  • Collapse of a building or structure 

Health and safety issues identified by a HSR should be raised with the employer according to the procedure agreed upon. If there are not agreed, then you must follow the procedures in the OHS Regulations. You have the right to escalate issues if your employer is not responding satisfactorily.  

See Regulations Part 2.2 and section 73 

Information and assistance 

HSRs have the right to keep up to date with occupational health and safety information provided by the employer, and to seek information any person with OHS knowledge, including your union. 

See section 69(1)(e) and section 58(1)(f) 


Your employer must allow representatives with OHS knowledge who are assisting HSRs entry into the workplace. 

See section 70 (1) 

Your employer has a duty to HSRs to make OHS information available to you. This information includes providing access to information regarding:  

  • Actual or potential hazards arising from the use of plant or substances  
  • The members of a DWG and people HSRs represent 

You also have a right to liaise directly with WorkSafe Inspectors, your union, or other organisations to get advice and assistance with health and safety issues in the workplace. If you believe you need external advice from a person who is familiar with a particular hazard or other OHS issue, you are entitled to have this assistance. If there is a cost involved, it will have to be negotiated with the employer. 

DWG consultation and representation 

HSRs have a right to consult with members of their DWG and to be consulted by the employer on health and safety issues in the workplace.  

See section 58 (2) and section 35. 

An important part of a HSRs job is to talk to workers about health and safety issues and represent their views and concerns to management. The employer must consult workers on a range of health and safety issues. 

A HSR also represents members when management proposes changes to the way work is done if these changes are likely to affect the health and safety of your DWG. An example of this could be if your employer is planning to buy new equipment that people in the workplace will be expected to use or that will be near to where people are working. In this instance, the HSR should be consulted about the type of equipment, how it will be used and what sort of safety information has been provided by the manufacturer or installer before it is ordered.  

You should be expected to be consulted on matters regarding, but not limited to:  

  • Identifying/assessing hazards or risks  
  • Making decisions about control measures 
  • Making decisions on facilities  
  • Making decisions about procedures for resolving OHS issues; consulting with employees; monitoring health or workplace conditions; providing information and training  
  • Determining membership of the health and safety committee 
  • Proposing changes to the workplace; plant, substances or conduct of the work. 

You also have the right to enquire into any health and safety risk that will impact members of your DWG.  

HSRs have the right to monitor the control measures taken by their employer and have access to information relating to the actual or potential hazard.  

See section 58 (2)(b), section 59 and section 69 (1)(a)(i). 

Once your employer has implemented control measures to eliminate or minimise a risk or hazard, as the HSR, you have the right to monitor the measures taken by the employer to see if it has impacted the hazard/risk.  

To do this, you must have access to information concerning the hazards and health and safety of DWG members. Your employer must provide this information to you.  

You may represent members of another DWG if there is a serious risk to their health and safety, or if you are asked and the HSR for that DWG is not found.  

Exercising your rights and powers 

HSRs have the power to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) to resolve an OHS issue.  

See sections 60 and section 61. 

Provisional Improvement Notices are a very important tool in a HSRs toolkit. A Provisional Improvement Notice can be issued by a HSR if they believe that their employer is breaching, or has breached and is likely to breach again, a provision of the Act or Regulations.  

As a HSR, before issuing a PIN, you should first consult with your employer about fixing the hazard. If no action is taken, you can issue a PIN giving the employer at least 8 days’ after the day the PIN was issued to take action on a hazard or dispute the notice.  

The PIN can include directions on how to remedy the contravention.  

HSRs have the power to direct that workers cease work where there is an immediate threat to health and safety.  

See section 74. 

If you believe that workers in your DWG are confronted by an immediate threat to their health and safety and given the nature of the threat and degree of risk it is not appropriate to resolve the matter through your OHS issue resolution procedure you can, following consultation with your employer, direct that work cease. 

If this occurs, the employer is able to assign workers to suitable alternative work. 

HSRs have the right to be trained in their role. 

See section 67 and section 69 (1)(d)(ii). 

As a HSR, you have the right to attend a 5 day HSR Initial Training Course. You can also attend a 1 day HSR Refresher OHS Training Course annually. The course must be WorkSafe approved, relevant to the work of members of your DWG or role as a HSR, and must be chosen in consultation with your employer.  

Your employer is obligated to allow paid time off for the training course and pay the costs associated with attendance. You have the right to choose the provider of your training course.  

You must give at least 14 days’ notice of your intention to attend the training course. 

If your employer refuses to allow the HSR to attend a chosen course, you may ask WorkSafe to make a determination on which course to attend.

HSRs have the right to exercise their powers without fear of discrimination or liability.  

See section 76 (2)(a)-(b). 

As a HSR you have rights, not duties. This means that you are not personally liable for health and safety matters in the workplace beyond your duties as an employee. Your role is to consult with members of their DWG on OHS and exercise powers to their benefit. Under the Act your employer has a duty to allow you to exercise your powers without fear of discrimination. 

HSRs have the right to paid time off work to exercise their powers under the Act or Regulations or partake in training.  

See section 69 (1)(d)(i)-(ii) 

The role of a HSR is an important one so the right for paid time off to exercise your powers is enshrined in the OHS Act. As a HSR, you should definitely exercise your powers on paid time to show how important OHS is to the workplace.  

If a deputy HSR has been elected, they may exercise these powers if you are unable to do so.  

See section 57. 

A DWG can elect a deputy HSR in the same way a HSR is elected. If a HSR is unable to exercise their powers, the deputy HSR can step in and exercise those powers for them. 

We recommend that DWGs consider negotiating/renegotiating for deputy positions to become full HSR roles. This allows greater flexibility in responding to hazards in the workplace. 

Reps also have the right to consult with:

  • Members of their DWG

  • Other OHS reps

  • The union

  • WorkSafe

This enables them to be able to properly represent the interests of the members of their DWGs and as a representative on the health and safety committee.

Participate in meetings:

  • With your DWG members

  • With other reps to caucus on all OHS matters. This may be reps from the same employer, from the same workplace but different employers (eg labour hire, contractors), or a network of reps across the local area or an industry sector.

  • Of the health and safety committee

Last amended June 2022

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