A Health and Safety Committee (HSC) enables a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) and worker representatives to meet regularly and work co-operatively to develop policies and procedures to improve work health and safety outcomes.
Establishing an HSC
A PCBU must establish a committee within two months after being requested to do so by a Health and Safety Representative (HSR) or five or more workers at the workplace. However a PCBU can also decide on their own initiative to establish an HSC for their workplace.
Membership of the HSC
The members of an HSC may be agreed between a PCBU and the workers at the workplace. At least half of the members of the HSC must be workers who have not been nominated by the PCBU.
HSRs are automatically members of the HSC unless they do not wish to participate. Where there are multiple HSRs in the workplace they may agree among themselves as to who will be on the HSC and may agree to have more than one HSR on the committee.
Representatives of the PCBU on the HSC should be persons involved at senior management levels in the organisation who are able to make decisions about health and safety.
PCBUs must allow each member of the HSC to spend the time that is reasonably necessary to attend meetings or to carry out functions as a member of the HSC.
Any time that a member of an HSC spends attending meetings or carrying out HSC functions must be with the same pay that they are entitled to if they were to perform their normal duties during that period.
HSCs can perform a broad range of functions. HSCs can consider the management of health and safety across the whole workforce.
HSC functions include:
- facilitating co-operation between the PCBU and workers to instigate, develop and carry out measures to ensure the health and safety of workers
- assisting in developing health and safety policies, procedures and systems for the workplace
- other functions agreed by the PCBU and members of the HSC
Examples may include:
- the formulation of procedures, including issue resolution procedures, committee procedures for organising and conducting meetings and assisting in the development of safe working procedures
- analysing reports of hazards work-related incidents and statistics so that reports can be made to management
- making recommendations for corrective actions
- reviewing health and safety monitoring and audit reports
- considering reports that HSRs may wish to submit
- assistance in the development of safe work procedures
Health and safety dispute resolution is not an appropriate function for the HSC.
Dispute resolution requires specific procedures and the nature of committees makes them unsuitable for resolving issues.
Regulation 22 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) outlines the default issue resolution procedure.
If an issue is resolved and a written agreement is prepared, the HSC may request a copy of this written agreement.
How often does the HSC meet?
HSCs must meet at least every three months and at any reasonable time when at least half of the HSC members make a request.
The HSC members may decide to meet more than once every three months. Members may consider the following issues when deciding how often the committee should meet:
- the size and location of the workplace
- the number of workers and composition of the workers at the workplace
- the nature of the work being carried out
- the nature of the hazards at the workplace
Reasonable time should be allowed during each meeting to ensure discussion of all business.
Importantly, the PCBU should ensure that work arrangements are such that all worker members of the HSC are able to attend during paid time.
Small workplaces and HSCs
Although there is nothing to prevent a small business from establishing an HSC, such committees are more common in medium to large workplaces.
HSCs are often an effective means of co-ordinating a systematic approach to health and safety across the organisation.
However, small workplaces that do not have an HSC should involve staff in developing policies and procedures and in periodically reviewing their effectiveness in line with the PCBU's duty to consult with workers on health and safety matters. In workplaces with HSRs, this must involve the HSR.