Health and Safety Representatives

Today we are talking about Health and Safety Representatives. What are they? How do we get one? What can they do? What does it all mean?

So we decided to get Penny and Zane back into the studio and have chat about Health and Safety Reps. Watch below


Transcript

Zane
Hi we're here today with Penny Swarbrick, from Swarbrick, Beck, Mackinnon.
We are talking about health and safety reps, because there's been a lot of discussion about health and safety reps in the new health and safety reforms. So hopefully Penny can give us some answers around that.

Penny
I'll do my best.

Zane
Cool. The first question I've got is well, what are these health and safety reps, and what can they actually do?

Penny
OK. Well, at the moment, people be used to having health and safety committees and health and safety reps under the current legislation from the employees The big change here is that the health and safety reps from among the workers, which as we know, is wider than employees. So you have to include your contractors, volunteers, everyone else who's not an employee, but who works in the business, is going to be included, as being represented by the health and safety reps.

The theory of the health and safety reps is that in any work place, it's not compulsory to have one, but if the workers want one, they just get to say that they want one, and then the workers elect one. And it's completely outside the control of the PCBU. It's entirely up to the workforce to have their election. They select who they're going to be and once the health and safety reps been elected, he or she is going to be in place for probably three years. The regulations aren't quite final about that, but probably three years, and they're going to be in place unless they actually leave the job.

Zane
Wow. OK. So if these people become healthy and safety reps, what can they actually do in our business?

Penny
OK. Then their role is to promote worker interests within the workplace. And they're going to have a lot of responsibility because they are going to be able to inquire into what's going on, health and safety wise, into the work place. They're going to be able to monitor what the PCBU is doing about health and safety. They're going to be able to require things to be done, or stopped to be done-- or stopped being done, if they think they're unsafe. They're going to be able to make recommendations about what the PCBU needs to do. They're going to have actually quite a lot of power.

So from the just talking about that stopping things that are unsafe being done, is that literally something looks like it's really unsafe and they can come and say hey guys, you need to stop doing that now. Well there's going to be a lot of detail in the regulations around how they are trained and that kind of thing. But the intention is that there is a time frame within which the PCBU has to comply with the notice. And if the PCBU thinks that the notice or the recommendation is unreasonable, then there is a kind of appeal procedure to Work Safe. And an inspector will come in and say yes, it's got to be done, or no it doesn't have to be done. So the inspector's kind of arbiter of the reasonableness of the health and safety reps' requirements.

Zane
OK. So these health and safety reps, they need to be quite serious about keeping the workplaces safe. And it's not just about oh, being a bit malarkey and annoying the boss. It's actually about genuinely keeping the team safe.

Penny
They're not going to be elected unless they stand for elections, so they're going to be basically interested in it in first place. And once they're in the job, they need to be given time away for training. Time away from their normal duties as an employee, whatever that is, to perform their functions as a health and safety rep. They're going to have special protection when they're performing the duties as health and safety rep in the sense that they can't be disciplined for what they do as a health and safety rep.

Of course as employees, they still have to comply with the employer's requirements. So if they behave and misconduct then as an employee that's separate. But as a health and safety rep, they can't be discriminated against, because of what they're doing in that area.

Zane
OK. So as I learn more about this PCBU and the person conducting the business they're undertaking, what's my responsibilities as a PCBU to make sure these health and safety reps get what they need?

Penny
So what you need to do as a PCBU is make sure that you consult with a health and safety rep, if there is one, about health and safety leaders. If the health and safety rep comes to you and says I need to talk to you about something, you've got to confer with them about whatever it is. Talk to them. You've got to give them time off. You've got to provide them with information that they need to carry out their role. You've got to provide them with resources and facilities and any assistance that they reasonably require to carry out their role.

And you've got to comply with their recommendations and their notices. And if you're not going to comply with the recommendation, you've got to give a written explanation as to why you're not complying with it.

Zane
OK, and then if they don't agree with it, they can, I assume, take it up with someone else?

Penny
Yes. There's a bit of a process. I mean, there's a side that the detail of the regulations isn't written, and so we just have an intention, at the moment, of what's going to be in there.

Zane
So, if I've got a health and safety rep now, what I do with my health and safety committee that already exists?

Penny
Well, you can probably just carry on with the health and safety committee. You just need to make sure that it's constituted according to the new regulations, and health and safety committees will be part of the regulations. A health and safety committee again, is not compulsory. It's if the person, if the workers in the work place want one, that will need to be set up. And that will comprise employer, or PCBU and worker representatives, and no more than 50% of them can be employer reps.

Zane
So it says to me like their trying to strike a balance between getting staff involved and also keep working. And actually but generally just keeping people safe.

Penny
Yeah. That's exactly what they're doing. And what this act does, in all sorts of different ways, and this is just one of them, is puts responsibility on everybody in the workplace to work together to keep everybody safe. So that is the intention of these health and safety committees and the health and safety rep.

It's quite noticeable that the first draft of the bill, I don't know what's going to happen when it's finally reported back from the submission stage. But it's quite noticeable that there is no specific place for unions in this process. Obviously, in work places where unions are actively involved, they will probably, automatically have a part to play. But they don't have a right, in terms of the act, to be involved.

Zane
Well, so that sounds great. Thank you very much, Penny, in learning a bit about the health safety representatives.

Workshop WednesdayZane Yates