The Act increases the obligations of all positions within an organisation. In addition to the Directors due diligence obligations there is now an onus on employers to involve employees in greater aspects of the Health and Safety within the workplace. As part of this they should be involved in the development of the organisations health and safety policies. In addition the employer is obligated to provide a significant voice for employees in health and safety matters, such as via a health and safety representative.
Appointment of Health and Safety Representative
The prior legislation allowed for this to occur through the appointment and facilitation of a health and safety representative (“HSR”) who helped bridge the employers and employees at different levels of an organisation. Previously you could appoint one HSR for every 30 staff members. That has now changed to being one HSR for every 20 staff members.
The Act enables a worker to request the election of a HSR, or this may be done on the PCBU’s own initiative. The PCBU has significant obligations to the HSR, for instance to consult about health and safety matters, confer with the representative when requested, allow the representative time off to perform functions and an obligation to supply the representative with the necessary resources to carry out their role.
Health and Safety Representative Role
The HSR is tasked with representing workers in the group on matters relating to health and safety, which can extend to investigating complaints from workers, attending meetings, monitoring actions by the PCBU and making recommendations relating to health and safety. The HSR has increased powers under the Act, and is able to enter and inspect workplaces, and request a PCBU to supply any information necessary to perform their functions.
Exceptions for Health and Safety Representatives
Small businesses with less than 20 workers not in a high risk sector or industry (as defined in regulations still to be designed) are excluded from the obligation to have a HSR when requested by workers. However, these smaller businesses may still choose to elect a health and safety representative.