The experience and knowledge of employees can make a significant contribution to identifying and controlling hazards and risks in the workplace by developing preventative measures to address health and safety issues that arise.
To enable this, the OHS Act 2004 requires employers to consult with employees. The Act also provides for the establishment of designated work groups (DWG) and the election of health and safety representatives (HSRs).
To exercise powers and rights as an HSR effectively, it is important that HSRs (and if applicable), any deputy HSR (DHSR) receive training. This will provide HSRs with the skills, knowledge and confidence to represent the members of their DWG.
HSRs have a legal entitlement to attend initial and refresher training if they ask to attend these courses. The employer has an obligation to train HSRs and DHSRs if a request is made. An employer may decide to train HSRs if no request is made. WorkSafe actively encourages HSRs to take up their training entitlements.
HSR training is not intended to train HSRs to be health and safety professionals or to fulfil any employer's obligations in relation to OHS. OHS must be managed by duty holders such as the employer and those with, to any extent, management or control of the workplace. The OHS Act section 58(3) specifically states: "Nothing in this Act or the regulations imposes, or is taken to impose, a function or duty on a health and safety representative in that capacity"
Although the initial and refresher courses are designed for HSRs and DHSRs, managers, supervisors, health and safety committee members and anyone with an interest in health and safety could also benefit from attending the training.
Resources that may assist the employer, managers, HSRs and DHSRs
https://content.api.worksafe.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-03/ISBN-Employee-representation-handbook-for-workplaces-2021-03.pdf Note that this publication has recently been updated