Unions may apply to the South Australian Employment Tribunal (SAET) to have one or more of their officials granted a WHS entry permit. This permit allows union entry into workplaces to enquire into a suspected contravention of work health and safety laws, inspect worker records and consult with workers.
Union officials must follow strict procedures with penalties in place for any misuse of the Right of Entry.
SAET maintains a publicly available register of current WHS EPHs.
The WHS Act enables an EPH to enter a workplace to:
- enquire into a suspected contravention of the WHS Act that relates to or affects a relevant worker
- inspect employee records or other documents that are directly relevant to the suspected contravention
- consult and advise relevant workers on WHS matters.
In order to exercise a right of entry to a workplace an EPH must:
- hold a current WHS entry permit issued by SAET, and
- hold an entry permit under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) or have a right of entry under the Fair Work Act 1994 (SA), and
- only attempt to enter during the usual working hours at the workplace, and
- not enter any part of a workplace that is used only for residential purposes, and
- give notice of entry as required.
When at a workplace an EPH must:
- produce their WHS entry permit and photographic identification if requested, and
- comply with any reasonable request by the relevant person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), or the person with management or control of the workplace, to comply
- any WHS requirement that applies to any visitor to the workplace (e.g. site induction, requirement for specific PPE)
- any other legislated requirement that applies to visitors to that type of workplace, and
- not contravene a condition imposed on their WHS entry permit, and
- not intentionally and unreasonably:
- delay, hinder or obstruct any person, or
- disrupt any work at the workplace, or
- otherwise act in an improper manner (an example is where an EPH seeks to enter the workplace without giving the minimum 24 hours prior notification to consult with relevant workers).
Where an EPH enters a workplace to enquire into a suspected contravention, or to consult and advise relevant workers, they may only visit the area where the relevant workers work, or other work areas that directly affect the health or safety of those workers.
A person (including the relevant PCBU and the person with management or control of the workplace) must not, without reasonable excuse, refuse or unduly delay entry into a workplace by an EPH.
Additionally, a person must not intentionally and unreasonably hinder or obstruct an EPH from entering a workplace or in exercising any rights that an EPH has after entry to the workplace.
An EPH must give consideration as to whether it is reasonably practicable to give notice to the Executive Director of SafeWork SA about the proposed entry before exercising that right.
Entry Permit Holder entry notifications must be made by telephoning SafeWork SA on 1800 777 209 (24 hours per day 7 days per week).
SafeWork SA has developed a policy, Inspector attendance at workplaces when notified of a proposed entry by a WHS Entry Permit Holder, which sets out the circumstances when SafeWork SA's work health and safety inspectors will attend at a workplace when notified of the proposed entry of an Entry Permit Holder.
For further information on notifying SafeWork SA about a proposed entry please contact our Help Centre on 1300 365 255.
Entry permits expire 3 years from the date of issue. The issuing authority (South Australian Employment Tribunal) will send a notice to the Union (Association) which applied for the permit, reminding them that the nominated holder's permit is about to expire and of the need to return it to the Registrar within 14 days of the permit expiring.
If a new entry permit is required for that nominated holder, a fresh application would need to be submitted as per the instructions by South Australian Employment Tribunal.
Where a WHS entry permit holder exercises a power of entry without being accompanied by a SafeWork SA work health and safety inspector the WHS entry permit holder must complete the WHS Entry Permit Holder Report to advise us on the outcome of their enquiry.
The report must include the following information:
- the WHS entry permit holder's full name
- the permit number
- the name and address of the workplace that was entered
- the date of entry, and
- details of any contravention of the WHS Act that, in the opinion of the WHS entry permit holder, has occurred.