HSRs are there to represent their fellow workers by raising, monitoring and resolving health and safety matters with their employer (also called PCBU in WHS laws).
It's important to remember that HSRs are not expected to be the experts but are there to:
- Listen and consult with members of their work group
- Raise workers' concerns to management
- Use their skills and powers to ensure that improvements are made.
Health and safety rights and obligations
Below are summaries of basic rights and obligations found in state and territory health and safety laws:
- Work Health and Safety Act in ACT, NT, NSW, QLD, TAS, SA and ComCare
- Victorian OHS Act
- Western Australian S&H Act
These should only be used as a guide.
Raising a WHS problem with your employer/PCBU
Health and safety laws are clear that employers/PCBUs must consult with workers and their HSRs on health and safety matters in the workplace. We hope that on most occasions this consultation is done in a fair and open manner.
If consultation doesn't end in a solution, your HSR may need to indicate to management that there is a disagreement.
These pro forma may be useful if that happens:
It's good practice to keep a record when you raise an issue with management.
Use these Records of Consultation:
- OHS Act in Victoria
- WHS Act in Commonwealth, SA, Tasmania, Queensland, Northern Territory
- WHS Act in ACT and NSW
Other parts of the law
Although health and safety laws are the most important for WHS, other parts of the law are also useful:
- Fair Work Act
- Common law: everyone has a common law right to refuse to perform immediately unsafe work
- Workers compensation laws
- Privacy and 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 Federal Court decision in 2013 reaffirmed the right of HSRs to speak up and take action in efforts to improve health and safety.
The decision relates to the the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic), 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  FCA 526. Justice Murphy paragraph 168.