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What is an HSR and do we need them?
A Health & Safety Rep (HSR) is someone who has been elected by his/her co-workers to represent them on health and safety matters. HSRs play an important role in keeping workplaces healthy and safe, and provide a voice for workers who might not otherwise speak up.
Under the Health and Safety at Work (Health and Safety Representatives and Committees) Amendment Act 2023 if a PCBU receives a request under subsection (1), the PCBU must, within the time prescribed by regulations, initiate the election of one or more HSRs to represent workers who carry out work for that business or undertaking.
What is HSWA?
HSWA is the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015, which is New Zealand's health and safety law.
The Act encourages a proactive and collaborative approach towards workplace health and safety with an emphasis on shared responsibility among employers and workers.
Do I have to be trained to be an HSR?
You can carry out HSR functions without any training. However, under the Regulations relating to HSWA, only HSRs who have completed initial training are allowed to:
- issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN), or
- call upon unsafe work to immediately cease.
To be able to use these special powers you must achieve NZQA unit standard 29315 'Describe the role and functions of the Health and Safety Representative in a New Zealand Workplace'. Only training providers with approval from NZQA can teach this unit standard.
Who organises my training?
Your employer is responsible for organising your training.
HSRs are entitled to two days’ paid leave each year to attend training.
Do I have to pay for training?
No, your employer is responsible for payment of your training including any reasonable associated costs eg. travel.
What tasks will I be asked to do as an HSR?
As an HSR you might be asked to:
- represent workers (or individual workers on request) on health and safety issues
- investigate health and safety complaints and risks
- monitor health and safety measures
- make health and safety recommendations
- give feedback to the business about whether health and safety requirements are being complied with.
How many HSRs should my work site have?
HSWA recommends a default ratio of 1 HSR for every 19 workers, or one to represent a single work group.
What is a Health & Safety Committee and do we need one?
A Health & Safety Committee (HSC) is a group of people who meet regularly to work co-operatively to improve health and safety at work. The HSC can be of any size but there are some specifications as regards who is on it and how regularly it meets.
- There must be at least one business representative who can make health and safety decisions.
- At least half of the members must be workers NOT nominated by the business.
- The HSC must meet at least once every three months.
The Health and Safety at Work (Health and Safety Representatives and Committees) Amendment Act 2023 states an HSC becomes compulsory for any industry if one is requested by either:
- an HSR; or
- 5+ workers.
What power do I have as an HSR?
HSR powers include being able to:
- enter and inspect workplaces;
- request any information from the business needed to perform their HSR role;
- accompany an inspector during an inspection;
- consult with WorkSafe or an inspector about any health and safety issue;
- with worker consent, attend interviews about health and safety matters between worker(s) and the business or inspectors.
The following two powers can only be used after HSRs have completed initial training
- A trained HSR can issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN). A PIN is a written notice issued to a person, telling them to address a work health and safety matter that breaks the law.
- Trained HSRs can direct workers to cease unsafe work where there is a serious risk to health and safety from an imminent or immediate exposure to a hazard.
It is up to each HSR to decide when and whether they perform or exercise their functions or powers.
What is a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN)?
A Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) is a written notice that can be issued by a trained HSR to a person or a business, telling them to address a health and safety concern in the workplace. A PIN can only be issued by an HSR who has completed training to Unit Standard 29315 (sometimes called "Reps 1"). The PIN tells the person what the health and safety issue is and can include recommendations to resolve the issue by a certain date.
An HSR can only issue a PIN if they:
- reasonably believe the person/business is not meeting legal requirements; and
- have previously consulted with the person/business (eg. by raising it in a Health & Safety Committee meeting) and given the business an opportunity to fix it.
NOTE: An HSR cannot issue a PIN if a WorkSafe inspector has already issued an improvement notice or a prohibition notice regarding the same matter.
What protection does HSWA provide for HSRs?
Under HSWA it is against the law to discriminate or take negative steps against an HSR because of their involvement in workplace health and safety.
Where do I get help if I need support and my manager isn't offering it?
HSRs can ring the WorkSafe Contact Centre on 0800 030 040 for information, support and advice.
You can also use this number – in confidence or anonymously – if you are concerned about an unsafe or unhealthy work situation that could lead to death or serious harm.