Workers are entitled to:
- Elect a health and safety representative (HSR) if they wish to be represented by one
- Request the formation of a health and safety committee
- Cease unsafe work in certain circumstances
- Have health and safety issues at the workplace resolved in accordance with an agreed issue resolution procedure, and
- Not be discriminated against for raising health and safety issues.
Health and Safety Representatives (HSR)
Your workers can ask you to facilitate the election of one or more HSRs for the workplace.
An HSR is elected by a workgroup (e.g. all workers in the office part of a manufacturing complex, or all people on the night shift) to represent the health and safety interests of the workgroup. An HSR must be a member of the workgroup they represent. There can be as many HSRs and deputy HSRs as needed after consultation, negotiation and agreement between you and the workers.
You must keep a current list of all HSRs and deputy HSRs for the workplace and display a copy. A list must also be provided to the WHS regulator.
Workers' right to stop work
In some circumstances, workers, or their HSRs have the right to refuse to carry out or stop unsafe work. They have this right if there is a reasonable concern that the worker will be exposed to a serious risk to their health and safety from an immediate or imminent hazard. This could include exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
In most circumstances, the HSR will need to consult with you before they direct workers to stop work.
If a worker stops work because it is unsafe, they need to tell you as soon as possible. The worker must then be available to carry out suitable alternative work, including doing other tasks that they are trained or able to do or performing their work from another location, such as working from home.
You cannot discriminate against or disadvantage workers for raising work health and safety concerns in the workplace.
You also cannot discriminate against or disadvantage HSRs in the workplace for performing their HSR role.
You should encourage your workers to raise any concerns they have about work health and safety in your workplace, including in relation to the COVID-19 virus.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.