When workers are elected as health and safety representatives or deputies for their designated work groups (DWGs), it is important that they be trained so that they are able to be able to carry out their role and functions.
The VTHC recommends that as soon as possible after they have been elected, OHS reps and deputies attend a training course which will give them the tools to confidently represent their fellow members.
Note: Under Victorian legislation, once a worker has been elected as the health and safety representative for his or her DWG, that person is entitled to exercise all the powers and rights of reps under the OHS Act (More information on the powers and rights of elected reps and their role). That is, even if an elected OHS Rep has not attended training, that person still has the right to represent their DWG, raise issues with their employer, and if necessary, issue PINs, Cease Works, and so on.
Under Section 67 of the Victorian OHS Act, the employer must allow a representative to attend an approved course on paid time, pay the cost of the course and must pay any other associated costs. (Note: costs may include travel, parking, etc. Payment of associated costs should be discussed prior to the course). The courses approved under this section of the Act are both the initial 5 day course of training, and now an annual refresher course. (See below for the list of approved refresher courses now delivered by the VTHC OHS Training Unit)
Reps (and deputies) must make the request to their employer to attend an approved course not less than 14 days before the course starts. The VTHC recommends that reps and deputies attend courses conducted either by their own union or the VTHC OHS Training Centre. While the course is to be chosen by the health and safety rep in consultation with the employer, an employer cannot reasonably refuse to allow a rep or a deputy to attend the approved course of their choice. If the employer attempts to prevent a rep attending a course, or if agreement cannot be reached, then the rep can ask the Authority to make a decision.
In addition to training courses approved under s67 of the OHS Act, there are also courses approved under s69. Elected reps, not deputies, are entitled to attend these courses on paid time, but the employer is not obliged to pay for the course or other associated costs.
Time spent at an approved training course is considered time at work and be paid for by the employer as such. Payment must include normal shift allowances, and so on. An OHS rep or deputy must not be disadvantaged in any way by attending an approved course, so there must be discussion and resolution of issues such as arrangements for rostered days off or varying shift arrangements, expenses, and so on. Contact your union if you have any queries.
In terms of any out-of-pocket expenses, the WorkSafe advice is clear:
Who pays for the costs associated with training?
HSR training is a work activity. Employers must pay course fees and any other expenses associated with attendance at a course, including:
- travel to and from the approved course (where it is greater than travel to the normal workplace); and
- accommodation, meals and incidental expenses where an approved course is remote from the workplace.
The details should be discussed and agreed at the time of arranging the course.
For WorkSafe guidance and advice on the obligations of the employer with regards to training:
- Health and safety representative training - a webpage for employers which explains reps' entitlements
- HSRs/deputies request to attend training form - to fill out to give to their employer. It is very useful and sets out what your rights and the employer obligations are.
- also, see pp 35 - 40 of Employee Representation.
If you have any problems with your employer agreeing to allow you to attend the course of your choice, contact your union, or the VTHC OHS Unit immediately.
So do you know what your rights to training are? Take our Quiz:
The VTHC is offering a General Update which is a WorkSafe approved 1 day refresher courses for all OHS and Deputy Reps under Section 67(3)(a) of the 2004 Act. This course covers legislative update on the Victorian OHS Act 2004, the 2017 regulations and Compliance Codes; consultation, communication and problem solving; and hazard identification and control with one of manual handling, work related stress, incident investigation or hazard mapping, depending on the needs of the group. This course is also run specifically for different industry areas.
Go to this page for more information on our course program.
Note: While it was expected that the Victoria would be taking up the harmonised Work Health Safety regulatory package, the government decided that it would not do so. Therefore, the right of reps and deputies to training, and the courses available, have not changed.
Last amended February 2021