Health and Safety Committee
The new health and safety act puts a strong focus on employers to show that they are engaging with employees about improving health and safety.
The act does not specifically tell employers how to engage as this varies by both industry and workplace. However, the law is clear – businesses must have regular discussions between workers and employers about health and safety. Many businesses choose to have health and safety representatives and/or committees as they are a well-established way to support worker engagement and participation.
What is a health and safety committee (HSC)?
A HSC is a group of workers and managers who meet regularly to improve health and safety practices. The committee help develop policies and procedures for health and safety and also recommend improvements to management.
HSCs work well in large workplaces where members are drawn from different parts of the business. This helps the business meet the HSWA requirements to consult, cooperate and coordinate activities across the business.
Does your work need a HSC?
Any business can voluntarily establish an HSC. Legally, a business must establish a HSC if it receives a request from five or more workers or a health and safety rep.
Businesses can decline if it has fewer than 20 workers and is not in a high-risk industry (as determined by WorkSafe NZ). In addition a business can also decline the request if it’s satisfied that existing worker participation meets HSWA requirements. The request must always be genuinely considered and an explanation given in writing if it’s refused.
Must do’s for your business:
- Consult with the HSC about health and safety.
- Allow the committee to meet at least every three months.
- Allow each member of the HSC time to attend meetings or carry out tasks for the committee.
- Provide the HSC with information to perform its duties (information relating to hazards/risks and the health and safety of workers at the workplace).
- If the HSC makes a recommendation regarding work health and safety, the business must either accept the recommendation, or provide a reason for rejection.
- Remember to record the minutes and action points from the meeting to document the work of the committee.
Membership of the HSC:
The business which forms the health and safety committee must set the membership of the HSC and also follow the requirements of the law:
- One of the members appointed by the business must be authorised to make decisions on health and safety issues.
- At least half of the members on the committee must be workers and not nominated by the business.
- Health and safety reps are eligible to be a member of the health and safety committee.
The end result:
Having a competent HSC means a business can work towards a safer and healthier workplace. This makes workers happier and more engaged which increases productivity and also reduces costs as the hazards and risks in the workplace are actively managed.
Required to consider a committee if requested?
It’s important to remember that under the Act, you need to engage with workers and create opportunities for them to take part in improving health and safety. Many businesses choose to have health and safety committees as they are a well-established way to support worker engagement and participation.
If a health and safety committee is established at your workplace, the business must:
- Consult with the committee on health and safety
- Allow each member of the committee sufficient time to attend meetings or carry out functions as a member of the committee
- Provide the committee with a necessary information to perform its functions, including information relating to hazards and the health and safety of workers at the workplace
- If the committee makes a recommendation regarding work health and safety, the business must either adopt the recommendation, or provide a written statement advising why they did not adopt it.
Site Safe offers a comprehensive two-day training course to get health and safety reps up to speed.
*High-risk sectors or industries as per the Health and Safety at Work Act Regulations 2016:
|Forestry and logging|
|Fishing, hunting, and trapping|
|Food product manufacturing|
|Water supply, sewerage, and drainage services|
|Waste collection, treatment, and disposal services|
|Heavy and civil engineering construction|