Is it a legal requirement to have an elected OHS rep?

Is it a legal requirement to have an elected OHS rep?

By Gaby Grammeno on 13 February 2018 Do we require an elected OHS rep on a building site if we already have a full-time OHS coordinator?

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Q Our company operates in the residentail construction space (medium density) in Victoria and employs a full-time OHS coordinator on site. Is there a legal requirement to also have an elected OHS representative?

A There is no legal requirement to have an elected health and safety representative (HSR), unless a staff member asks an employer to hold an election for an HSR. It makes no difference if you have a full time OHS coordinator on site.

If an employer receives such a request, it is obliged, within two weeks of receiving the request, to negotiate with the staff to form one or more work groups to be represented by the HSR. The purpose of the negotiations is to agree on the number and composition of the work groups, and the number of HSRs and deputy HSRs (if any) to be elected.

The members of the work group may then determine how the election of an HSR is to be conducted (eg with or without the assistance of a member of a union or other organisation).

All the employees in the work group are entitled to vote in an election for an HSR. However, an election need not be held if the number of candidates equals the number of vacancies – for example, if there is only one work group, that group has decided they only need one HSR, and only one person is interested in being an HSR.

If you don’t receive a request from a staff member to hold an election for an HSR, there is no legal requirement to have one.

However, the need to consult workers (so far as is reasonably practicable) about work health and safety matters still applies.

Consultation is required in relation to the following health and safety matters:
  • when identifying hazards and assessing risks to health and safety arising from the work to be carried out
  • when making decisions about ways to eliminate or minimise those risks
  • when making decisions about the adequacy of facilities for the welfare of workers
  • when proposing changes that may affect the health or safety of workers
  • when making decisions about the procedures for:
    • consulting with workers
    • resolving work health or safety issues at the workplace
    • monitoring the health of workers
    • monitoring the conditions at any workplace under the management or control of the employer, or
    • providing information and training for workers.
Consultation requires that relevant information about health and safety matters is shared with staff; that workers are given the opportunity to express their views and contribute to the decision-making process (eg to resolve a health and safety issue); and that workers consulted are advised of the outcome of the consultation in a timely manner.

If such consultation is not carried out through an elected HSR, another mechanism for consultation must be agreed upon with the workers. The mechanism for consultation may be relatively informal, as long as the above conditions are satisfied.

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