An "issue" is any concern about health and safety at the workplace that remains unresolved after consultation with the affected workers and the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) has occurred.
Who is involved?
The "parties to the issue" will be involved in resolving the issue. This means:
- the PCBU with whom the issue has been raised
- any other PCBU involved in the issue
- where at least one worker in a work group is affected by the issue, their Health and Safety Representative (HSR) or the HSR's representative
- where a worker or workers affected by the issue are not in a work group, the worker, or workers, or their representative.
A representative of a party (e.g. a union representative or employer organisation) may, if requested by the party, enter the workplace to attend discussions with a view to resolving the issue.
A PCBU must ensure that their representative is not an HSR and is sufficiently competent to act as the PCBU's representative and has the appropriate level of seniority.
An 'agreed procedure' is an agreed process or outline of the steps involved in resolving health and safety issues in the workplace.
The Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) (WHS Act) encourages PCBUs to agree on issue resolution procedures with their workers. If there are no agreed procedures, the default procedure for issue resolution under the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012 (SA) (WHS Regulations) must be followed. The default procedure includes minimum requirements for any agreed procedures and is contained in Regulation 22.
Agreed procedures must be set out in writing and be communicated to all workers affected by those procedures.
For a procedure to be an 'agreed procedure' it must meet the following criteria:
- it must be agreed. This means that it is consensual and there has been genuine consultation and agreement between the PCBU, the HSRs and workers.
- it must outline a process or steps for resolving issues, not just set out what the outcome would be in specified circumstances.
- it must relate to health and safety issues and not a procedure that exists solely for other purposes, such as a grievance or complaint procedure, unless such a procedure is agreed to be utilised for health and safety issues.
The 'agreed procedure' must also be consistent with the WHS Act and cannot remove the power of an HSR to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) (PDF 510kb) or to exercise any other power that the WHS Act gives them.
What is a default issue resolution procedure?
The WHS Regulations set out the default procedure for issue resolution (Regulation 22).
In attempting to resolve the issue, the default procedure requires the parties to have regard to relevant matters, including:
- the degree and immediacy of the risk to workers or other persons
- the number and location of workers and other persons affected by the issue
- the measures, both temporary and permanent, that must be implemented to resolve the issue
- who will be responsible for implementing the resolution measures.
What if the issue is not resolved?
If reasonable efforts have been made to resolve an issue and it remains unresolved, any party to the issue can ask SafeWork SA to appoint an Inspector to attend at the workplace to assist in resolving the issue.
Inspectors may exercise any of their compliance powers under the WHS Act, including providing advice, investigating contraventions or issuing an improvement notice.
To request an Inspector to attend the workplace you should contact SafeWork SA on 1300 365 255.
What happens after the issue has been resolved?
If the issue is resolved, details of the issue and the resolution must be set out in a written agreement, if any party to the issue requires this.
If a written agreement is prepared:
- all parties to the issue must be satisfied that it accurately reflects the resolution
- the agreement must be provided to all people involved with the issue and (if requested) to the Health and Safety Committee at the workplace.
At any stage in the issue resolution process, a worker can still bring the work health and safety issue to the attention of their HSR.