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Any business can choose to have Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) to support worker engagement and participation. However, only businesses or undertakings with 20 or more workers or who are in one of the industries listed in the Regulations must initiate the election of one or more HSRs if requested by a worker.
Who can stand for election?
Any worker who:
- is a member of the work group electing an HSR
- is willing to act as an HSR, and
- works regularly and for enough hours to act effectively as an HSR
Why must an HSR come from the same work group that they represent?
To represent workers’ interests well, HSRs need to be familiar with the health and safety issues arising from a work group and be readily accessible.
Who can vote in an election?
Anyone who is a worker and is a member of the work group having the election can vote.
Election candidates cannot be involved in organising or running an election. (Clause 13 of the Health and Safety at Work (Worker Engagement, Participation and Representation) Regulations 2016(external link))
When should an election be held?
The PCBU must initiate the election within two months of receiving a request for an HSR.
How does the election process work?
An election can take any form that is agreed with the workers (eg a show of hands), unless the PCBU, a candidate, or a member of the work group requests a secret ballot. The election process is flexible and will depend on what works best for the business or organisation.
The election can be run by the PCBU, a worker or groups of workers, a worker representative like a union representative, or any combination of these people. The only restriction is that the election candidates cannot be involved.
The PCBU must provide any resources, facilities and assistance reasonably necessary for the election to be conducted. This includes costs associated with the election (eg to provide candidate information and to work out the results).
The PCBU must also let workers know about the work groups being formed and how many HSRs are going to be elected.
If there aren’t enough candidates to fill all of the HSR vacancies, each candidate will automatically be elected.
If there are no candidates, then the PCBU should consider whether the work group has been grouped appropriately.
What happens once the HSR is elected?
Once the HSR is elected, the PCBU must ensure that the names and contact details of HSRs for each work group are made available to workers. This must be done in a way that is easy for workers to access (eg using posters or intranet pages).
Making this information available ensures workers are aware of who to contact if necessary, and also provides important information to health and safety inspectors when visiting a workplace. WorkSafe can also request these details.
The details must be updated whenever there is a change in HSRs for that work group.
Term of office
Once elected, an HSR's term of office is for a maximum of three years, or for less time if agreed between the PCBU and members of the HSR’s work group.
HSRs can be re-elected multiple times.
An HSR ceases to hold office if they are not re-elected.