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The Value of Health and Safety Representatives (Hsrs) in the Workplace and the Role of the Employer Representative.

Posted by Andy Perry on 12 November 2020

I have been delivering training and information to HSRs for several years and their general perception from the participants is that supervisors and managers have limited knowledge of the role that HSRs play in the workplace, the legal powers available to them and the overall value they can bring to any organisation. 
WorkSafe Victoria describes the values of HSR's as the following:

"The benefits of employee representation have been recognised in Victorian Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation since 1985, and research has demonstrated that workplaces which have effective employee representation have better OHS outcomes. HSRs make a difference and are the voice of the people who are ultimately impacted by poor workplace health and safety" Furthermore, "They are a conduit for information between employees and management to ensure that safety issues are dealt with in a timely and consultative manner. "

Once an HSR completes the initial 5 days of OHS training, it may be assumed by the employer representative that additional duties can be allocated to these people without sufficient consultation, information, instruction, training to the HSR (employee).

This is a timely reminder that the OHS Act 2004 section 58 (3) outlines that nothing in the OHS Act or the Regulations imposes, or is to be taken to impose, a function or duty on a HRS in that capacity. It is also worth noting that the role is voluntary and supported by WorkSafe Victoria.

WorkSafe considers the following range of competencies is required of an employer representative (the management person who interfaces with the HSR) in order to carry out their role under the OHS Act 2004 should obtain the following:

  • General knowledge of the OHS Act;
  • Understanding of the health and safety issue resolution process and the role of agreed procedures and regulations;
  • Understanding of the employer duties under OHS legislation and the concept of reasonable practicability;
  • Understanding of the role and functions of HSRs and authorised representatives of registered employee organisations;
  • Understanding of the role of inspectors, their powers and issue resolution functions;
  • Understanding of how the workplace operates;
  • Communication, consultation and negotiation skills;
  • Understanding of the process of resolution when an inspector arrives on site;
  • General understanding of OHS issues and systems specific to that workplace;
  • Understanding of the hazard identification and risk assessment processes and, in particular, the ability to identify appropriate risk control measures available to the employer; and
  • Ability to get access (within the organisation and externally) to expert technical information and advice in relation to specific hazards.

It is the employer's responsibility to determine the competence of the employer representative prior to the appointment of that person. It is advisable that the employer representative's OHS performance be incorporated into performance appraisal systems and that they receive training as is necessary.

Author: Andy Perry

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