Worker participation

A successful health and safety system provides workers with the opportunity to participate in health and safety.

Health and safety representatives and health and safety committees

A successful health and safety system provides workers the opportunity to participate in health and safety. One method for doing so is through having Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and Health and Safety Committees (HSCs).

There's no requirement to have a HSC or a HSR under the Health and Safety at Work Act. However if you have 20 or more workers and 1 requests to have a committee you must consider this request and action as appropriate. Note: If you have 20 or less workers you're not required to have a HSC or a HSR even if requested.

Roles of a Health and Safety Committee (HSC)

  • Facilitates co-operation between the board of trustees and school workers in instigating, developing, and carrying out measures designed to ensure the school workers’ health and safety at work.
  • Assists in developing any standards, rules, policies, or procedures relating to health and safety that are to be followed or complied with at the school.
  • Makes recommendations to the board of trustees about work health and safety.

Roles of a Health and Safety Representative (HSR)

  • Representing school workers generally on health and safety matters.
  • Investigating complaints from school workers about health and safety issues at the school.
  • Representing a school worker on a specific health and safety matter (including a complaint) if asked to do so by that worker.
  • Monitoring health and safety measures taken by the board of trustees and providing feedback to the board about health and safety compliance.
  • Inquiring into anything that appears to be a health and safety risk to school workers arising from the activities of the school and making recommendations to the board of trustees on work health and safety.
  • Promoting the interests of school workers who have been harmed at work, including arrangements for rehabilitation and return to work.
  • Issuing provisional improvement notices in the school workplace.
  • Being able to direct workgroup members (school workers the HSR represents) to cease work.

Requirements for health and safety representatives and health and safety committees — WorkSafe website (external link)

Who is eligible to stand for election? Who can vote?

A person is eligible for election as a health and safety representative for a work group if they:

  • are a worker who is a member of that work group
  • are willing to act as a HSR
  • work sufficiently regularly and for a sufficient amount of time to be able to carry out the functions and exercise the powers of a health and safety representative effectively.

All members of the work group are eligible to vote.

Who is responsible for the election process?

The board or early learning service is responsible for ensuring the election of HSRs takes place, although responsibility for organising the election may be delegated to the principal, a school staff member(s), an Officer in an ECE service, a HSR, a union or other representative. The election should occur within 2 months of receiving the request.

The board or early learning service must provide the resources, facilities and assistance that are reasonably necessary to conduct an election of one or more HSRs, including the payment of any costs associated with:

  • calling for nominations
  • providing information about candidates to workers
  • determining the method, date, times, and location of the election
  • the calculation and communication of results

What is the election process?

These guidelines are designed to help boards or early learning services with the election process.

  1. Elections should be held at least every three years or a shorter period if agreed by the work group and the Board/ECE.
  2. The principal, Officer in an ECE service, or other delegated person should manage the election process with help from the current HSR(s), unless they are a candidate for the election.
  3. The election organiser calls for nominations for the HSR position(s) by a certain date – all workers in the work group must have the opportunity to nominate and elect their HSR.
  4. A vote is organised if there are more nominations than positions.
  5. Elections may be undertaken using any form of voting and can be as simple as a show of hands or writing the name of the person on a piece of paper and putting it in a voting box.
  6. Voting may be by a secret ballot (if requested by a member of the work group, a candidate for election or the Board/ECE).
  7. Once the votes have been counted, the successful candidate(s) is appointed as the HSR(s)for the work group.
  8. The organiser will then advise all staff and the Board/ECE of the result.
  9. The names and contact details of all HSRs must be displayed prominently in the workplace, in a readily accessible manner, and must be updated whenever there is a change of HSR for a work group.

What is the term of office for HSRs?

A HSR can hold office for no more than three years. A shorter term can be agreed between the Board/ECE and the members of the work group concerned. A HSR can be re-elected for any number of terms and, if the Board/ECE agrees, a HSR can remain in office after the expiry of their term until a successor is elected.

Tools and resources for schools

Tool 4: Worker engagement and participation checklist [PDF, 24 KB]

Tool 8: Example HSC meeting agenda — Word version [DOCX, 15 KB]

Tool 9: HSC example minutes template — Word version [DOCX, 17 KB]

Tool 10: Worker engagement guidelines [PDF, 18 KB]

Tool 24: Worker’s health and safety training plan and record — Word version [DOCX, 16 KB]

Example policy/procedure: Worker Participation — Word version [DOCX, 22 KB]

Tools for early learning services

Tool 2: Health and safety representative list template — Word version [DOCX, 12 KB]

Tool 3: Health and safety committee agenda template — Word version [DOCX, 12 KB]

Tool 4: Health and safety committee meeting minutes template — Word version [DOCX, 11 KB]

External resources

Worker engagement and participation — WorkSafe website (external link)

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