Representation

TIPS ON BETTER REPRESENTING MEMBERS OF YOUR DWG 

Entitlement 

Under the s.58 of the OHS Act HSRs have the power to attend an interview concerning health and safety between: 

  • a member of their Designated Working Group (DWG) and an inspector, or 
  • a member of their DWG and the employer concerned or its representative. 

This may occur for any number of reasons including for example, during inspections (HSRs can also accompany WorkSafe inspectors), after incidents, for return-to-work purposes or as part of issue resolution processes. 

Provided that the meeting is only for the purpose of: 

  • representing the members of the designated work group (DWG); or  
  • monitoring the measures taken by the employer to comply with the Act or Regulations; or 
  • enquiring into anything that poses or may pose a risk to the health of safety of members of their DWG; or 
  • attempting to resolve any issue related to health & safety present in the workplace, that affects the DWG.

Preparing for the meeting 

The first step to getting ready for a successful meeting is to have a clear vision of the reason why the meeting was called and its final aims. 

If the meeting has been called by the HSR: 

  • What are the points you want to make on behalf of your DWG? 
  • What are the outcomes your DWG are hoping for? 
  • Is there an opportunity to implement short term/immediate controls? Think about the hierarchy of control  

If you have been called by management: 

  • What is the employer seeking? Why did they call the meeting? 
  • Is there anything you can ask to read or review before the meeting? 
  • If it is to answer/respond to an incident? If so, what is alleged to have occurred? 
  • Are there any members you can speak to so that you have the appropriate background 

Consider whether it is appropriate to call your Union for further advice or support before attending the meeting. 

Attending the Meeting 

  • Never forget you are not in the meeting representing yourself; you are there representing members of your DWG. Avoid words such as “I think” or “My view is” etc. Instead, use phrases such as “Members of my DWG have suggested” or “The view of workers is”. This also helps to avoid creating the impression you are driving the agenda.  
  • Always make sure you have a pen and paper or some other way of making notes (that does not include secretly recording the meeting). Write down everything! 

     -Note: In Victoria it is not illegal to record conversations to which you are a party without the consent or knowledge of other participants. Be aware however that recording conversations in the work context leaves you open to allegations that you have breached your common law duties as an employee and subject to disciplinary action. If you do wish to record an interview, just ask everyone if that is acceptable, but if anyone says ‘no’ do not record!   

  • If the employer seeks a response make sure you have clarity on the specific question, or questions, being asked. It may be useful to write down questions you’ve been asked, read them out and get agreement that your summary is accurate and complete. Feel comfortable asking for a moment to write something down. Alternatively, you may ask the employer to put them to you in writing (i.e. take the question “on notice”).  
  • If being asked to answer allegations, make sure responses are confined to the specific of the allegations. Don’t say anything you don’t need to say. 
  • If something unexpected does come up, or you otherwise need to confer with a member, or members of your DWG don’t be afraid to call for an adjournment or reschedule the meeting. Depending on who needs to be consulted this may take a few minutes or several days 
  • Don’t feel pressured to agree to any course of action in the meeting. Feel confident saying that you will take the information back to consult with your DWG and come back with a response. Don’t sign anything! 
  • If you are there representing an individual, a manager may try to suggest that your role is as a ‘witness’ or ‘support person’ and not to speak. If this does occur note that you are present as a health and safety representative. If this does not resolve the issue, ask for them to confirm the instruction not speak in writing. If they won’t there’s your answer! If they do, suspend the meeting – we need to deal with the procedural matters before looking at the substantive issues. Call WorkSafe and your Union! 
  • Consider also if you are raising an issue concerning health and safety there are additional obligations if done under an issue resolution procedure. If you do not have an agreed procedure, then the default Issue Resolution Procedure in the Regulations applies. These requirements include: 

- The parties must meet to resolve the issue as soon as reasonably possible after it is reported. 

- In order to resolve the issue as quickly and effectively as possible, the parties must consider: 

                    1- the number and location of employees affected  

                    2- whether appropriate temporary measures are possible or desirable 

                    3- the time needed to permanently resolve the issue 

                    4- who, on behalf of the employer, will be responsible for performing and overseeing any action agreed 

- At the request of any party, details of the issue and resolution must be set out in writing by the employer.  

- As soon as possible the employer must ensure that details of any written or oral agreement are brought to the attention of the employees and the health and safety committee. 

  • Make sure at the conclusion of the meeting you have agreed on the next steps, establishing what is going to happen, who is responsible for it, and by when. VTHC has created a handy record of consultation form to assist in recording these details. 

Follow Up 

  • Make sure you arrange a time to debrief with your DWG to inform them of the outcomes and make sure they are happy with any proposed next steps.  

Resources 

 

Last amended, May 2024