Work health and safety (WHS) committees have an important role to play in ensuring the safety of employees in the workplace. The committee members are responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures to keep workers safe. In this post, we will discuss the role of WHS committee members in more detail and explain how to become a representative.
What is a WHS committee?
A WHS committee is a group of employees who are responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures to keep workers safe.
What is a Health and safety representative?
A health and safety representative (HSR) is an employee who has been elected by their fellow workers or employer to represent employees on issues relating to health and safety in the workplace. HSRs have the power to stop work if they believe there is a risk to the health and safety of employees.
How does the WHS committee election process work?
The election process for WHS committee members varies from workplace to workplace. In some workplaces, the employees will vote for the committee members, while in others, the employer will appoint the members.
If you are elected as a member of a WHS committee, it is important that you take your responsibilities seriously and carry out your duties to the best of your ability. By doing so, you can help to keep your workplace safe for all employees
What are the duties of a WHS committee member?
- Developing and implementing policies and procedures to keep workers safe. This includes developing policies on issues such as safe work practices, hazard identification and reporting, and emergency procedures.
- Inspecting the workplace, including looking for hazards and assessing the risks posed by them.
- Investigating any incidents that occur to find out what happened and why. This information can be used to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
- Educating workers on the risks in the workplace and how to stay safe. The committee members can provide this education through training sessions, toolbox talks, and other means.
- Conducting regular audits of the workplace to ensure that the workplace is safe and compliant with the relevant laws and regulations
What does the WHS Act say about work health and safety committees?
The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) requires employers to establish a work health and safety committee if there are at least 15 employees at the workplace. The purpose of the committee is to promote and improve worker health and safety in the workplace.
If you have been elected as a member of a work health and safety committee, you should familiarise yourself with the WHS Act and the Regulations. You can find copies of these documents on the Safe Work Australia website.
Obligations to health and safety representatives
Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the WHS Act), employers must consult with health and safety representatives (HSRs) on a range of health and safety matters. This includes consultation about:
- identifying hazards and assessing risks in the workplace;
- investigating accidents and incidents;
- developing, implementing and reviewing health and safety policies and procedures; and
- providing information and training to employees on health and safety matters.
What are the benefits of having a WHS committee?
- Improved communication between management and employees.
- Increased employee involvement in safety initiatives.
- Better identification of hazards in the workplace.
- Improved compliance with safety policies and procedures.
How often must a health and safety committee meet?
The Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (the WHS Regulations) require work health and safety committees to meet at least four times a year. However, there is no limit on how often the committee can meet, and it is up to the committee to decide how often they need to meet.
What information can a health and safety committee member access?
As a member of a health and safety committee, you have the right to access any information that is reasonably necessary for the performance of your functions. This includes information about:
- hazards and risks in the workplace;
- accidents and incidents;
- health and safety policies and procedures; and
- training on health and safety.
The role of WHS committee members is vital in ensuring the safety of employees in the workplace. If you are elected as a member of a WHS committee, it is important that you take your responsibilities seriously and carry out your duties to the best of your ability.
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