Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and a Health and Safety Committees (HSCs) are two well-established methods of representation which form part of the engagement and participation, a mandatory requirement of the HSWA.
When workers and PCBUs interact with each other honestly, openly, and with mutual respect, this reduces the risk of conflict and problems.
Having a health and safety committee or a health and safety representative can be a good way of ensuring regular safety conversations are taking place.
A Health and Safety Committee (HSC) supports the ongoing improvement of health and safety at work.
An HSC enables the Person Conducting Business or Undertaking (PCBU) representatives, workers, and other HSC members to meet regularly and work cooperatively to ensure workers’ health and safety.
One of the committee’s main functions is to assist in developing standards, rules, and policies or procedures relating to work health and safety.
A Health and Safety Committee can also perform other functions that are agreed upon between the PCBU and the HSC, or specified by the Regulations.
Benefits of a Health and Safety Committee
An HSC can draw on workers’ practical knowledge of how work is done as well as managers’ knowledge about the broader context behind company policies and procedures.
An HSC can be an efficient participation practice in a workplace that has multiple PCBUs with overlapping duties, such a construction site or university campus.
Committee members can be drawn from each PCBU.
This helps a PCBU who shares responsibility for health and safety with
other PCBUs to meet the requirement to consult, cooperate with, and coordinate activities with other PCBUs.
Health and Safety Committee (if chosen as a participation practice) will be successful when:
- HSC meets regularly.
- All workers have representation on the HSC (see workforce diversity, below).
- Workers are consulted with by the PCBU at appropriate stages (eg before new technology or equipment is chosen/introduced).
- Worker representatives have adequate time, resources, and facilities to carry out their roles.
- Workers’ views are sought by the PCBU on how changes to work or working conditions might affect workers’ health and safety.
- Workers’ views about health and safety matters are heard business-wide, not just at the local level (for multi-site businesses or undertakings)
- HSC is involved in developing standards, rules, policies, and procedures for improving work health and safety outcomes.
- HSC recommendations are given due consideration by the PCBU.
- Workers know who their representatives are on the HSC.
- Workers have enough time to have a say and participate before a decision has to be made about a work health and safety matter.
Workers should know when their participation counts.
Workers need to know:
- that their voices have been heard
- how and when a PCBU will respond
- how, and what, decisions were made about issues and suggestions raised by workers or their representatives.
Feedback from a PCBU:
- shows how workers’ input has been considered
- is ideally shared face-to-face, although email, noticeboards, and newsletters can also work
- is evidence of a PCBU’s commitment
- may mean explaining why something can’t be done. If workers make a suggestion but hear nothing more they may be frustrated and lose trust in the PCBU.
Organisations with 20 or more workers are required to have a Health and Safety Committee if one or more workers requests a HSC to be initiated.
High-risk industries (defined in the Regulations),are required to have a health and safety representative (HSR), or consider a committee if requested by workers.
High-Risk industries are :
- Forestry and logging
- Fishing, hunting, and trapping
- Coal mining
- Food product manufacturing
- Water supply, sewerage, and drainage services
- Waste collection, treatment, and disposal services
- Building Construction