HSR and HSC FAQs

What is a Health and Safety Representative, do all businesses need to have a HSR or a Health and Safety Committee (HSC), what is a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN), and can HSRs, trained under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, issue Provisional Improvement Notices (PIN) or cease unsafe work orders under HSWA?

An HSR is a worker who has been elected by the members of their work group to represent them in health and safety matters.

Any business can choose to have HSRs and they are a well-established way to support worker engagement and participation.

HSRs are elected by a work group, which is a defined group of workers who work for the PCBU. The work group can be the whole workplace or it can be workers grouped by work areas, occupations, work sites or other arrangements. How a work group or work groups are organised will depend on what is effective for the PCBU and the workers, given the structure of the business or undertaking.

No. Some businesses will have special requirements if an HSR or an HSC is requested. It all depends on:

Business profileRequired to have an HSR if requested? Required to consider a HSC if requested? 
  • 20 or more workers
  • any sector
 YES  YES
  • less than 20 workers, and
  • not listed as a 'high-risk' sector

NO (voluntary) 

NO (voluntary) 

  • Listed as a 'high-risk' sector, and
  • any number of workers
 YES YES 

Those businesses listed in the table above must:

  • initiate the election of HSRs if requested by a worker, and
  • consider whether existing worker participation practices are sufficiently effective and whether to establish an HSC, if one is requested by an HSR, or by five or more workers.

Any business can voluntarily choose to have HSRs. They are a well-established way to support worker engagement and participation.

If HSRs and/or HSCs are part of a business’ worker participation practice(s), the Act(external link) and Regulations(external link) set out how they will work, including their functions and powers, and the business’ obligation to provide support.

First work out if you need to count workers.

The number of workers in a business affects some legal requirements for that business. You only need to count workers if you are working out:

  • whether your business has to respond to a request for an HSR or HSC, or
  • how many HSRs your business must have, but only if your business will have a single workgroup for the election. The whole business = one workgroup, which is the default in the Act. Any business that doesn’t set up multiple work groups has a mandatory minimum ratio of 1 HSR for every 19 workers, or
  • the maximum number of days’ paid leave your business must give to HSRs across the entire business or undertaking in a given year.

You need to count the total number of actual workers, rather than full-time equivalents. The count is done to help you support the participation and involvement of the entire workforce, including part-time workers.

Businesses have the same responsibility for the health and safety of all workers. However, volunteer workers are not included when counting workers for any reason connected to your worker engagement, participation and representation duties. Prisoners carrying out work inside a prison are also excluded.

For businesses with temporary or seasonal workers, count the number of workers you have at the time when a worker makes a request for an HSR.

EXAMPLE: 

Bunyan’s Avocado Orchard has five permanent workers most of the year, but takes on another 22 workers during the avocado picking season between August and March. 

Avocado farming is not in an industry set out in the  Health and Safety at Work Act (Worker Engagement, Participation, and Representation) Regulations 2016(external link).

If a request for an HSR is made during June, when they have only five workers, then Bunyan's Avocado Orchard does not have to initiate the election of an HSR. (Although they could still decide to have one.)

However, if the request is made during September (with 27 workers in the business) then the election of an HSR(s) must be initiated.

You can always have more than the required minimum number of HSRs. This can be useful if you know you will have a larger number of workers in the future. Having more HSRs can mean they are more effective as they can share responsibilities.

A Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) is a written notice issued by an HSR to a person or a business, telling them to address a health and safety concern in the workplace. A PIN can only be issued by an HSR who has completed initial or additional HSR health and safety training specified in the Regulations for Worker Engagement, Participation and Representation.

An HSR can issue a PIN to a person or business if the HSR reasonably believes that person is contravening, or is likely to contravene, a provision of HSWA or the Regulations. ‘Contravene’ means doing something that breaks a law.

The PIN tells the person what the health and safety issue is and can include recommendations to resolve the issue (by fixing or preventing a problem) by a certain date.

However, the HSR must not issue a PIN to a person or business unless they have first consulted that person or business.

An HSR must not issue a PIN if a WorkSafe inspector has already issued an improvement notice or a prohibition notice about the same matter.

No. Only HSRs who have completed transitional training or completed the HSR unit standard 29315 are able to issue PINs or cease work orders under HSWA.

See HSRs - training requirements for more information.