Why are safety and health representatives important?
Safety and health representatives play a key role in the promotion of safe work practices within the minerals industry. They are elected to represent the health and safety interests of workers and provide a means for workers to raise safety issues within the workplace.
Safety and health representatives can help to improve communication and increase the effectiveness of consultation between workers and management so that workplaces become safer and healthier.
Safety and health representatives do not have the same jobs as safety and health officers or inspectors, and are not responsible for solving safety and health matters at the mine site.
What does a safety and health representative do?
The functions of a safety and health representative are to:
- regularly inspect the workplace areas you were elected to represent at agreed times and frequency
- immediately investigate the scene and details of any accident, dangerous incident or risk of serious injury or harm to any person
- keep up to date with workplace safety and health information provided by the employer and liaise with government and other bodies
- report hazards in the workplace to the employer
- refer any matters that you think should be considered by the committee, where there is a safety and health committee for the workplace
- consult and cooperate with the employer on safety and health matters
- liaise with employers and workers about safety and health matters.
Safety and health representatives must be elected in accordance with the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 to ensure they have protection under the law to perform the functions related to their role.
What powers do safety and health representatives have?
Safety and health representatives for a mine have the powers needed to carry out their functions. The mine manager and all employers must consult with safety and health representatives on intended changes to the mine, plant or substances where those changes may reasonably be expected to affect workers’ safety or health.
In addition, if requested by a worker, employers must permit a safety and health representative to be present at an interview with the worker concerning the occupational safety or health of workers at the mine. Safety and health representatives may inspect any part of a mine at any time agreeable to the mine manager, who must ensure a suitably experienced person arranges their safe conduct.
In the event of an accident, dangerous occurrence, or where there is risk of imminent serious injury, the safety and health representative can carry out an appropriate investigation. Safety and health representatives:
- must immediately report to the mine manager and employer any hazard or potential hazard that comes to their attention
- consult and cooperate with the manager and employers on all matters relating to the safety and health of persons at the mine
- must refer appropriate matters to the safety and health committee for its consideration.
Is there a handbook to help safety and health representatives?
As part of the welcome pack following the notification of election, safety and health representatives receive a handbook as a day-to-day ready reference guide.
- Why safety and health representatives are important
- The Act and framework for occupational safety and health law
- Your functions as a safety and health representative
- Provisional improvement notices.
- Keeping records
- Employer’s duties to representatives
- Safety and health committees
- Resolution of issues
- Right to refuse unsafe work
- Disqualification of safety and health representatives
- Information and support
What training does a safety and health representative need?
Safety and health representatives who are elected for the first time and who have not previously completed the introductory course must, subject to course availability, try to complete the course within 12 months of being elected (or as soon as possible thereafter).
Representatives who have previously completed the introductory course are not required to complete the course again, but may attend to refresh or update their knowledge if they wish to do so following re-election or at the employer’s recommendation.
Safety and health representative training courses are accredited by the Commission for Occupational Safety and Health in accordance with the Western Australian Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984. Elected safety and health representatives who have not completed the training may not issue a provisional improvement notice (PIN).
The list of accredited training providers is available from WorkSafe.
Why is important to be properly elected?
The Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 provides important and necessary protection for safety and health representatives elected in accordance with the Act.
It is an offence for an employer to discriminate against or disadvantage an worker or contractor for the dominant or substantial reason that they are or have been an elected safety and health representative.
Elected safety and health representatives may not be sued for damages for anything arising from having performed, or even failing to perform, any function related to the position. However, they still have the same responsibilities and general duties of care as any other worker.
When does the term of office start?
A person who is elected as a safety and health representative holds office for a term of 2 years commencing on the tenth day after the election was held.
When is someone no longer a safety and health representative?
Safety and health representatives are elected for a term of 2 years to represent workers in a specific area, workplace or group as determined during consultation before the election. This term starts 10 days after the date of the election, so a safety and health representative’s term expires 2 years and 10 days after election, unless they are re-elected before the expiry date.
Safety and health representatives also cease to hold their positions if they:
- leave their job
- resign from the position
- are transferred from the area, workplace or group they were elected to represent
- are disqualified by the Occupational Safety and Health Tribunal.
In any case, the employer needs to update safety and health representative records via the Safety Regulation System (SRS).
Below is the list of documents and links that you may find useful.
The posters below can be used on site to publicise the safety and health representatives and who they represent. Add photographs of the representatives to personalise them.