ASK RENATA

I have recently become an HSR. Our workplace is extremely unsafe, and a number of staff have proposed practical and affordable solutions which are always refused by the CEO who has no regard for the safety of staff.

Congratulations on your recent election as HSR.

We’re very sorry to hear you’re working in an environment where worker safety is not taken seriously. The good news is, our OHS Act gives HSRs all the powers needed to get things moving.

To resolve OHS issues effectively, certain steps should be followed. As per section 73 of the OHS Act, both the HSR and the employer (or their appointed representative) should adhere to the agreed-upon workplace safety issue resolution procedure. In case no such procedure exists, the issue resolution procedure outlined in Chapter 2.1 of our OHS regulations should be followed. Detailed guidance and additional information on this matter can be found in WorkSafe's Employee Representation Guide.

Any employer-appointed representative involved in resolving OHS issues must not be an HSR, and should possess an appropriate level of seniority and competence to act as the employer's representative. WorkSafe has produced the Employer Representative Competencies  document, which advises employers on determining the required level of seniority and competencies for their representatives.

We acknowledge that  s.73 may not be your preferred way forward, given your CEO is the blockage in this particular circumstance.

If the safety issue, or issues, remain unresolved within a reasonable timeframe or if the employer or their representative refuse to address the problem, HSRs have the power, under Section 60 of our OHS Act, to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN). A PIN serves as a vital tool for an HSR when consultation with the employer fails to resolve a workplace health and safety issue. It is a written directive that obligates a person, typically the employer, to rectify or mitigate the identified violation, aiming to eliminate the associated risk.

While using a PIN form downloaded from the WorkSafe website is not compulsory, it can assist in ensuring that all required information is included. An HSR can issue a PIN to any individual or organization with duties under the OHS Act or OHS Regulations. It is essential to complete a separate PIN for each contravention, outlining elements such as the specific provision being violated, the rationale behind the belief of the contravention, and the designated timeframe for compliance.

To serve a PIN, the HSR can deliver it personally, send it via post or fax to the person's usual or last known residence or business address, leave it with an individual over 16 years old at the person's residence or business, or send it electronically (e.g., via email) to the person's usual or last known email address. If the person is an employee, they must bring the PIN to their employer's attention, and employers should establish procedures to promptly handle any PINs issued to their managers or supervisory staff, as it is their responsibility to address them.

When issued with a PIN, employers or other recipients must ensure it is brought to the attention of all individuals whose work is affected by the notice and display a copy of the notice in a prominent place within the work area. "Prominent display" refers to making the notice openly visible in a location where it can be easily encountered and examined by relevant parties without prior knowledge of its existence.

This display requirement aims to enhance workplace consultation processes, promoting the sharing of crucial information about workplace health and safety. It also ensures that individuals who might be impacted by the PIN are aware of its existence. Failure to comply with the PIN within the specified timeframe results in an offense under the OHS Act, unless the recipient wishes to dispute the PIN by contacting WorkSafe within seven days of its issuance. WorkSafe can then arrange for an inspector to visit the workplace to investigate the circumstances of the PIN and determine its compliance with the requirements of section 60 of the OHS Act. Non-compliance with a valid PIN may lead to a comprehensive investigation and potential prosecution by WorkSafe.

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