Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union

 

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Law

Representing your fellow workers - that's the role of a HSR/Deputy HSR.

HSRs represent their work group by raising, monitoring and resolving health and safety matters with their employer [called PCBU in WHS laws]. Its important to remember that HSRs are not expected to be the experts - the role is one of representation, consultation and communication.

A good HSR: 

  • listens and consults with members of their work group
  • raises those concerns to management
  • uses their skills/powers to ensure that improvements are made. 

It is very good practice to keep a record of when you have raised an issue with management.

Use these Records of Consultation:

Electing HSRs

Creating work group(s) from which to elect health and safety representatives [HSRs] and Deputy HSRs has to be done according to the relevant laws. Make sure your HSRs are elected and not appointed by management. 

You can use these forms when forming work groups and electing health and safety representatives: - 

See summaries of the basic health and safety rights and obligations in state and territory health and safety laws [are a guide only].

 

Although Health and Safety laws are the most important law, parts of other law are also useful: 
  • Fair Work Act [section 340: workplace rights apply to H&S laws]
  • Common law: everyone has a common law right to refuse to perform immediately unsafe work
  • Workers compensation laws
  • Privacy laws, Anti discrimination laws.

 

The Fair Work Act 2009 includes health and safety laws in the definition of workplace rights [Section 340 of the Fair Work Act].

An important decision Federal Court decision in 2013  reaffirmed the right of H&S Reps right to speak up and take action in efforts to improve health and safety.

The decision is about the Victorian OHS Act 2004, but the principle applies to all health and safety laws.  

“The OHS Act plainly contemplates that a HSR may have a different view from the employer as to the appropriate resolution of a particular health and safety issue. The right to advocate such a different view is an important workplace right and the dialogue it promotes serves an important occupational health and safety function. In my opinion, actions taken by a health and safety representative in asserting a particular position on a health and safety issue should not lightly be treated as constituting   uncooperative or obstructive conduct.

 AMWU vs Visy Pty Ltd [2013] FCA 526. Justice Murphy paragraph 168.

 

Raising an H&S problem with your employer/PCBU

Health and Safety laws are quite clear that employers/PCBUs must consult with workers and their HSRs on health and safety matters. We hope that on most occasions this consultation is done in a fair and open manner. It is a good idea - for both the HSR/workers and management to keep a record of that consultation - see our proforma above.  

However, if that consultation does not find a solution, the HSR may need to indicate to management that there is a disagreement about the solution. Here's another proforma that may be useful in those circumstances. 

 

Remember:  AMWU - delegates, organisers and specialist H&S Officers - are always available for support and assistance

 

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