Q. Can an employer direct HSRs to perform workplace audits?

The WHS act is very clear on the powers and functions of HSRs.

Subdivision 5 68 (4) states:

“Nothing in this Act imposes or is taken to impose a duty on a health and safety representative in that capacity’’

The act gives elected HSRs specific powers under the above Subdivision these include:

  • to represent the workers in the work group in matters relating to work health and safety; and
  • to monitor the measures taken by the person conducting the relevant business or undertaking or that person’s representative in compliance with this Act in relation to workers in the work group; and
  • to investigate complaints from members of the work group relating to work health and safety; and
  • to inquire into anything that appears to be a risk to the health or safety of workers in the work group, arising from the conduct of the business or undertaking.

However, Subdivision 6 (70) of the act does state the duties and obligations of the employer, some of these include:

70 General obligations of person conducting business or undertaking

(1) The person conducting a business or undertaking must—

(a) consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, on work health and safety matters with any health and safety representative for a work group of workers carrying out work for the business or undertaking; and

(b) confer with a health and safety representative for a work group, whenever reasonably requested by the representative, for the purpose of ensuring the health and safety of the workers in the work group; and

(c) allow any health and safety representative for the work group to have access to information that the person has relating to—

(i) hazards (including associated risks) at the workplace affecting workers in the work group; and

(ii) the health and safety of the workers in the work group;

The above information are some examples of what powers and functions HSRs have under whs legislation, and by no means an exhaustive list of either parties responsibilities under workplace health and safety legislation.

Remember: The rep is elected by the members of his or her designated work group – and is their rep, not the employer’s rep.  He or she has to satisfy those members and is answerable to them.  In terms of duties an elected rep has the same duties as any other employee of the employer – no more, no less.