OHS reps - your rights

Occupational (or workplace) health and safety is covered by health and safety laws - in Victoria, this is the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004).

However, parts of other laws can also apply. These are:

  • Fair Work Act [includes the health and safety laws in the definition of workplace rights - section 340: workplace rights apply to Health and Ssafety laws];
  • Common law: everyone has a common law right to refuse to perform immediately unsafe work;
  • Workers compensation laws; and
  • Privacy laws, Anti discrimination laws.

What is a health and safety representative?

An OHS rep (or an HSR) is a person elected by the workers to represent them on any and all occupational health and safety matters.  To be an effective rep, that person must be supported by the members of the Designated Work Group. A good and effective rep listens to and consults with their members.

Rights of a rep

Health and Safety Representatives Rights and Powers
(remember as an HSR you still have your rights and obligations as a worker)
What you can do; the rights you haveWhich section of the
Victorian OHS Act

or Regulations
Represent workers, in their Designated Work Group, on health and safety matters.Section 58 (2)
Term is 3 years (or less)

Training

Attendance at approved HSR training.
Initial 5 days then 1 day refresher per year.  67 (1)

HSR must make request more than 14 days from the date of the course. 67 (2)

The course is to be chosen by HSR, in consultation with employer. 67 (3)(c)

The employer must provide paid leave to attend the training, and must also pay any costs associated with the HSR attending the approved training.  67 (4)

If employer refuses to allow the HSR to attend a chosen course, the HSR may ask the Authority to make a determination. 67 (5)

Contact your union or the VTHC Health and Safety Training Centre
on 03 9663 5460

Section 67

Employer must consult with you about health and safety matters that may affect members of your Designated Work Group (DWG). Specifically when:

  • identifying/assessing hazards or risks
  • making decisions about control measures
  • making decisions on facilities
  • making decisions about procedures for resolving OHS issues; consulting with employees; monitoring health or workplace conditions; providing information and training
  • determining membership of the health and safety committee
  • proposing changes to the workplace; plant, substances or conduct of the work

Sections 35 & 36

Regulation 2.1.5

(how HSRs are to be 'involved')

Take issues to the employer or employer representative for resolution according to agreed procedures – if none agreed, then procedures as prescribed in the Regulations

Section 58(2)(d)
Section 73
Regulation 2.2.4

Direct work to cease - where that work is an imminent or immediate risk. Section 74
Issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) requiring the employer to take certain actions, after previously consulting with the employer about the H&S issue. Section 60
Request a review of control measures because there has been a change or new risk/hazard has been identified or consultation indicates a review of risk controls is needed. 

Regulations: in the specific  hazard regulations  eg Regulation 3.3.1, 3.2.9 & 3.3.8 etc.

Inspect any part of a workplace at which a member of the DWG works:
  - at any time after giving the employer or its representative reasonable notice
  - immediately in the event of an incident/situation involving an immediate risk to the health and safety of any person
Section 58 (1) (a)
(i) 
(ii)
Accompany an Inspector.Section 58 (1)(b)
Request the establishment of a Health & Safety Committee

Section 58 (1)(c)
Section 72 (Committees)

Be present at an interview with inspector or employer and workers [you need workers' consent].Section 58 (1)(d)

Have the right to seek, whenever necessary, the assistance of any person.

Note this could be another HSR, a fellow worker, union delegate or organiser.

Section 58 (1)(f)

See Section 70 if person is from outside the workplace

Monitor the measures taken by the employer.Section 58 (2)(b)

Enquire into any health and safety risk

Section 58 (2)(c)  

You have no duties and are not personally liable for health and safety matters.Section 58 (3)
Represent members of another work group if there is a serious risk, or you are asked and the HSR for that workgroup is not found. Section 59
Have access to information concerning hazards, health and safety of DWG members
Request your employer to provide you with this information.  
Section 69 (1)(a)
Be allowed time off, with pay to exercise your powers/perform your role.Section 69 (1)(d)
Be provided with resources, facilities and assistance. Section 69 (1)(e)
Employer must allow access to workplace to a person assisting you [eg union organiser or health and safety officer]. Section 70
Be a member of the health and safety committee (so far as is reasonably practicable)Section 72
Be contacted when an inspector visits your work group.Section 102
Be given, by the inspector, a copy of the Entry Report Section 103
Apply for a review of a range of inspector's decisions (or non-decisions) - eg on PINs; on issue of Improvement or Prohibition Notices; etc  Part 10 of the Act
Review of Decisions

.

Reps should also have the right to:

Consult with:

  • Members of their DWG
  • Other OHS reps
  • The union
  • WorkSafe

This enables them to be able to properly represent the interests of the members of their DWGs and as a representative on the health and safety committee.

Participate in meetings:

  • with your DWG members
  • with other reps to caucus on all OHS matters. This may be reps from the same employer, from the same workplace but different employers (eg labour hire, contractors), or a network of reps across the local area or an industry sector.
  • of the health and safety committee

Last amended June 2015

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