The primary role of a HSR is to represent workers on health and safety through ongoing consultation and cooperation between the workers of a work group and the employer.
The role of an HSR is voluntary. There is no allowance for undertaking HSR duties however HSRs and deputy HSRs are entitled to undertake training.
We maintain HSR records online.
PCBUs can advise of HSR election results, download reports on currents HSRs and view listings by site/location. Approved training providers can also search online to check if HSRs are registered with us or have already attended training within their current term of office.
Any worker of a work group may nominate to be an HSR.
A person in a management role can be a HSR if they are a member of the work group and have been elected. However, managers, team leaders and supervisors have specific work health and safety duties attached to their role and may be put in a difficult position when needing to respond to concerns.
Powers and functions
Employers must allow HSRs to access information relating to hazards that may affect the health and safety of any work group.
HSRs have certain powers and functions which include:
- representing the workers in the work group in matters relating to health and safety
- monitoring the measures taken by the employer or their representative with respect to compliance with the Act in relation to the workers of the work group
- investigating work health and safety complaints from members of the work group
- looking into anything that might be a risk to the work health or safety of workers they represent.
The powers and functions of a HSR are limited to the work group they have been elected to represent unless an HSR from another work group is unavailable and:
- there is a serious risk to health and safety from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard that affects or may affect a member of another work group
- a member of another work group asks for assistance.
If an HSR has completed an approved HSR training course, they can exercise particular powers to:
- direct unsafe work to stop when there is reasonable concern that carrying out the work would expose workers of the work group to a serious risk
- issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) when they reasonably believe that there is a contravention of the Act.
HSRs are not personally liable for actions or omissions when done in good faith whilst exercising powers or functions reasonably believed authorised under the Act. There is no legal duty or obligation for a HSR to perform functions or use the powers set out in the Act.
Deputy HSRs can only represent the workers in the absence of the elected HSR. The election process, term of office, training and other provisions are the same as for HSRs.
HSRs are automatically members of the Health and Safety Committee (if there is one) unless they do not wish to participate.
HSRs and deputy HSRs are entitled to undertake specific HSR training.
HSRs may attend an initial training course of five days in the first year of office, three days for the second year of office and two days for the third year of office.
Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) are elected by groups of workers (called work groups) to represent them and act on their behalf in relation to work health and safety matters. Some of the benefits provided by HSRs include:
- a single point of contact for workers raising health and safety issues, as well as for employers when consulting with workers
- improved efficiency, particularly where there is a large group of affected workers, enhancing the consultation process
- more effective representation, through their training, experience and regular involvement with health and safety matters.
Forming a work group is the first step to take before the election of one or more HSRs. A work group should be structured to ensure that an HSR is able to effectively and conveniently represent group members.
Work groups are determined based on things like group size, work type and hazards, and are decided through negotiation and agreement between an employer and workers. Work sites may also establish work groups across multiple businesses or undertakings.
Employers must start negotiating with workers and/or their representatives within 14 days of being asked to establish a work group or groups. Union representatives or any other person that a worker nominates to represent them must be involved in negotiating work group formation.
As reaching agreement can take time, the actual formation of a group may take longer.
Once work groups have been set up they should remain unchanged, unless you or your employer or your representatives negotiate a variation (eg due to workforce changes or an organisational restructure).
A work group chooses how an HSR election will be held, and the person conducting the election (agreed on by the work group) informs the employer accordingly. This person can be from another work group, but not a candidate in the election, or someone else from outside the workplace can help if this is agreed to by a majority of the work group.
Employers must provide reasonable resources, facilities and support to enable the conduct of the election, and display a list of elected HSRs at your workplace.
All work group members must be given the opportunity to vote, so elections may need to be conducted over an extended period of time.
The term of ofﬁce for an HSR is three years, unless:
- you resign
- leave the work group
- are disqualiﬁed
- the majority of the work group sign a declaration that you should no longer represent them.
Below is a general guide to conducting a HSR election.
Step 1: Request an HSR
Any worker can ask for an election to take place.
Step 2: Negotiate the work groups
Before conducting an election, workers must first determine the work groups.
When forming work groups consider:
- the number, diversity or grouping of workers undertaking the same or similar work
- the number and composition of work groups
- how many HSRs and deputy HSRs are required
- the workplace/s the work groups will apply.
The employer should advise workers of the outcome of the work group negotiations as soon as reasonably practicable.
Step 3: Call for nominations
All workers are eligible to nominate a member from their work group or themselves to stand for election as a HSR or a deputy HSR. Workers may nominate a worker who has management responsibilities as long as that person is a member of that work group.
When calling for nominations, it is a good idea to place notices in prominently displayed locations with reasonable closing dates, and ensure equitable access if electronically distributing.
Step 4: Conduct an election
After calling for nominations, conduct the election following the process chosen by the work group. The process may be informal via a show of hands, or more formal using ballots. If the majority of workers agree, a union, organisation or other person may assist with the election.
Inform all work group members of the place, day and time for the election. Each member of the work group is eligible to vote in the election.
Work groups do not need to hold an election where there is the same number of nominees as vacancies. Nominees are automatically elected as an HSR for the work group.
Step 5: Notify workers of the election outcome
The person who conducted the election advises the employer and the members of the work group of the election results.
SafeWork SA must also be notiﬁed of the elected HSR as soon as possible via the HSR Online Registration Portal.
If an HSR is re-elected, another term of office would begin. Re-elected HSRs have the same training entitlements as newly elected HSRs.
A court or tribunal may disqualify a HSR if satisfied that the HSR exercised a power or performed a function for an improper purpose, or used or disclosed information acquired in the role for a purpose other than in connection with their role as a HSR.
For example, a regulator, a person conducting a business, or a person adversely affected by the alleged behaviour can progress an application for disqualification to the court or tribunal.
The court or tribunal at discretion may decide to disqualify the HSR indefinitely or for a specified period of time.
Members of a workgroup can also disqualify a HSR in writing.
Support and advice
To help achieve improved consultation and representation in South Australian workplaces, we work with Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs), Health and Safety Committee (HSC) members, Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) and workers.
Our Advisory Service can provide free support, advice and information about:
- forming work groups
- determining appropriate HSRs
- electing HSRs and deputy HSRs
- HSR training and entitlements
- HSR and HSC roles and functions
- establishing HSCs
- promoting the roles of HSRs and HSCs in the workplace.
Our advisors also conduct information sessions for workplaces and groups on HSR and HSC roles and functions, and consultation processes for resolving safety issues.
Upon request, one of our WHS Inspectors can be appointed to:
- decide on the structure of a work group that has not been successfully negotiated or agreed upon between PCBUs and workers
- settle a disagreement or delay in the provision of HSR training
- assist in the resolution of a health and safety issue that is unable to be resolved, despite reasonable efforts, or an issue arising from the cessation of unsafe work
- conduct a review and decide on the outcome of a disputed provisional improvement notice (PIN).
For help with any of the above please phone us on 1300 365 255.
Worker representation and participation guide - Safe Work Australia