While Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) represent groups of workers, an HSC should focus on work health and safety issues affecting the organisation as a whole, rather than the concerns of individual workers or work groups. Workers should first attempt to resolve individual or work group issues through their HSR, supervisor or employer, before escalating them to an HSC.
HSCs provide an effective means for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) to meet regularly to talk about work health and safety matters. They bring together workers’ practical knowledge of their individual jobs and the PCBU’s overview of the workplace and work organisation.
The functions of an HSC include:
- facilitating co-operation between PCBUs and workers to initiate, develop and carry out measures to ensure workers' health and safety
- helping develop and review work health and safety policies, procedures and systems to ensure PCBUs are meeting their duty of care obligations
- dealing with any other health and safety matters, as agreed between a PCBU and committee members.
Some examples include:
- formulating procedures, including for issue resolution and the conduct of committee meetings
- assisting in the development of safe working procedures
- analysing reports of hazards, work-related incidents and statistics to make reports to management
- recommending corrective actions
- reviewing health and safety monitoring and audit reports
- considering reports submitted by HSRs.
As a PCBU you can initiate the establishment of an HSC at your workplace at any time, but you must establish a committee within 2 months after being asked to do so, either by an HSR or by 5 or more of your workers.
The composition of an HSC, to be agreed between a PCBU and workers, should:
- include at least 50% worker representation; not managers or supervisors nominated by the PCBU
- include PCBU representatives, from senior management, with the necessary level of decision making and organisational operation expertise
- be reflective of the different areas of the workplace
- automatically include HSRs, unless they don’t want to participate.
PCBUs should ensure that all worker members of the HSC are able to attend during paid time. If you are an HSC member any time spent attending meetings or carrying out committee functions should be paid at your usual pay rate.
HSCs must meet at least every 3 months or at any other reasonable time when at least half of the HSC members make a request. Meetings should allow reasonable time for discussion of all business. When deciding how often to meet, committee members should consider the:
- size and location of the workplace
- number of workers and workforce composition
- nature of the work being carried out
- nature of the hazards at the workplace.
Although there is nothing to prevent a small business from establishing an HSC, such committees are more common in medium to large workplaces.
Small workplaces that don’t have an HSC are still required to make sure that workers are involved in developing and reviewing work health and safety policies and procedures for their workplace.