Health and safety representatives are an important link between employees and employers. They tell employers about health and safety concerns and co-operate with them to set up and maintain workplace safety.
Health and safety representatives (HSRs) are elected by co-workers to act on their behalf in resolving health and safety issues in the workplace and to maintain safe working conditions.
Employees at every workplace are allowed by law to elect their own HSR.
Having a health and safety representative at your workplace makes it easier to bring health and safety problems to the attention of management so they can be dealt with and resolved.
When an employee asks for the election of a health and safety representative, the employer and employees must work together to conduct an election at the workplace. An employer may also call for the election of a health and safety representative without waiting for employees to ask.
Young employees should be introduced to their health and safety representative as part of their health and safety training when they first start their job.
As a new worker, you can ask the HSR to help you recognise and avoid health and safety hazards and risks in areas where you will be working.
Many organisations also have health and safety officers, who are not elected by employees. These officers are appointed by employers to manage occupational health and safety issues in the workplace and make sure health and safety induction, information, training and supervision are provided for employees.
Regular inspections of the workplace by HSRs are usually arranged with the employer in advance, but may be done without notice if there is an accident, dangerous situation, or immediate risk to health and safety.
Health and safety committees
Any employee may request that a health and safety committee is set up. Once an employee has asked for a committee, the employer is required by law to take steps to establish one. Employers may also establish a health and safety committee on their own initiative. Committees are useful as they help employers and employees to work together to make the workplace safe. In some larger workplaces, several health and safety representatives may be elected. There may also be more than one committee. Major employers may have health and safety representatives and committees at various workplaces around the state.
Students can complete the following health and safety representatives and committees activities: