Health and Safety Representatives
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 or committees as they are a well-established way to support worker engagement and participation.
What is a health and safety representative (HSR)?
A HSR is a worker who has been elected by their work group to represent them in health and safety matters. HSRs carry out duties such as:
- promoting positive health and safety management practices
- identifying hazards/risks and working with the employer to manage them – if there’s no resolution, and they’re appropriately trained, they can issue a Provisional Improvement Notice
- consulting with inspectors on health and safety issues
Do you need a HSR for your work?
Any business can on its own initiative, initiate the election of 1 or more health and safety representatives.
Legally, a business must initiate elections for a HSR if it receives a request from one or more workers.
The business's obligation to initiate an election in response to a workers request applies only for the work group to which the worker belongs.
What are the requirements of a HSR?
In order to be eligible as a rep a worker must:
- Belong to that work group or team
- Be willing to act as a health and safety representative
- Work regularly enough to be able to carry out the functions and to exercise the powers of a health and safety representative effectively.
A representative can hold the position for a maximum of three years but is eligible for re-election if they choose. A representative can also resign at any time.
For Health and Safety Representatives to carry out their job effectively they should receive training, support and adequate time from their employer to ensure they can effectively fulfil their role.
Training is also important, for a HSR to be fully competent, plus able to issue a ‘Provisional Improvement Notice’ or ‘cease unsafe work’ order they must have completed training under NZQA unit standard 29315. This training is offered by many organisations across New Zealand including Site Safe. The act allows for up to two days' paid leave a year to undertake health and safety training (this allowance increases based on the number of employees).
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.