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.
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.
Rights of a rep
|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
|Represent workers, in their Designated Work Group, on health and safety matters.||Section 58 (2)
Term is 3 years (or less)
Attendance at approved HSR training.
HSR must make request more than 14 days from the date of the course. 67 (2)
The course is to be chosen by HSR, in consultation with employer. 67 (3)(c)
The employer must provide paid leave to attend the training, and must also pay any costs associated with the HSR attending the approved training. 67 (4)
If employer refuses to allow the HSR to attend a chosen course, the HSR may ask the Authority to make a determination. 67 (5)
Employer must consult with you about health and safety matters that may affect members of your Designated Work Group (DWG). Specifically when:
(how HSRs are to be 'involved')
|Take issues to the employer or employer representative for resolution according to agreed procedures – if none agreed, then procedures as prescribed in the Regulations||
|Direct work to cease - where that work is an imminent or immediate risk.||Section 74|
|Issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) requiring the employer to take certain actions, after previously consulting with the employer about the H&S issue.||Section 60|
|Request a review of control measures because there has been a change or new risk/hazard has been identified or consultation indicates a review of risk controls is needed.||
Regulations: in the specific hazard regulations eg Regulation 239
|Inspect any part of a workplace at which a member of the 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 and safety of any person
|Section 58 (1) (a)
|Accompany an Inspector.||Section 58 (1)(b)|
|Request the establishment of a Health & Safety Committee||
Section 58 (1)(c)
|Be present at an interview with inspector or employer and workers [you need workers' consent].||Section 58 (1)(d)|
Have the right to seek, whenever necessary, the assistance of any person.
Note this could be another HSR, a fellow worker, union delegate or organiser.
Section 58 (1)(f)
See Section 70 if person is from outside the workplace
|Monitor the measures taken by the employer.||Section 58 (2)(b)|
Enquire into any health and safety risk
Section 58 (2)(c)
|You have no duties and are not personally liable for health and safety matters.||Section 58 (3)|
|Represent members of another work group if there is a serious risk, or you are asked and the HSR for that workgroup is not found.||Section 59|
|Have access to information concerning hazards, health and safety of DWG members
Request your employer to provide you with this information.
|Section 69 (1)(a)|
|Be allowed time off, with pay to exercise your powers/perform your role.||Section 69 (1)(d)|
|Be provided with resources, facilities and assistance.||Section 69 (1)(e)|
|Employer must allow access to workplace to a person assisting you [eg union organiser or health and safety officer].||Section 70|
|Be a member of the health and safety committee (so far as is reasonably practicable)||Section 72|
|Be contacted when an inspector visits your work group.||Section 102|
|Be given, by the inspector, a copy of the Entry Report||Section 103|
|Apply for a review of a range of inspector's decisions (or non-decisions) - eg on PINs; on issue of Improvement or Prohibition Notices; etc||Part 10 of the Act
Review of Decisions
Reps should also have the right to:
- Members of their DWG
- Other OHS reps
- The union
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 November 2019