AEU NT Guide to Health and Safety Representatives

What is a HSR?

Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) are workers elected by a work group to represent them in health and safety issues. Under the Work Health and Safety Act (2012) all school staff have the right to feel safe and protected when they come to work. The employer, the Department of Education and Community Services, must work to ensure that your mental and physical health is protected. HSRs are the most powerful representative of staff health and safety concerns at work, and are the only workers who can instruct work to cease if it is unsafe.

Don’t we have a OHS committee that does that?

The OHS committee is a group chosen by the employer to help manage issues with staff. These committees have no legal powers under the WHS act. They are not always representative. HSRs are empowered under the act because they: 

  • Are freely and fairly elected
  • Are trained in WHS legislation

HSRs may choose to create a committee to facilitate communication with the Principal. Trained HSRs in workplaces will represent staff concerns and advise the Principal on strategies to promote staff safety.

“Is this more work?”

No. This means safer work and therefore less work. Importantly, there is no legal duty or obligation for HSRs to perform any of the functions, or exercise any of the powers, of a HSR under the Act. HSRs must not be disadvantaged in any way for taking on the role. HSRs are entitled to spend as much paid work time as is reasonably necessary to exercise their powers and perform their functions under the WHS Act.

Is a “work group” the same as a “committee”?

A work group is only responsible for electing one or more HSRs. HSRs must be elected from the group of workers in the work group they represent. It is desirable to divide a big school into multiple work groups so that HSRs are representative and accessible to staff. Workers should seek the assistance of the AEU NT in negotiating the number of and make-up of work groups.

Can a HSR access training and resources?

Yes! Every HSR must be provided with 5 days of training by an accredited provider within 3 months if they request it. The Department must provide a HSR with paid relief from their duties and no cost may be imposed upon a HSR. Importantly, a HSR is not able to exercise their full powers to protect workers’ rights in the workplace until they have had the training.

What powers does a HSR have?

The HSRs in a workplace are provided with time (paid by the employer at their normal rate) to represent, investigate and advise on issues affecting workplace health and safety. The employer (the Department) and the manager (the Principal) must consult with the HSRs to resolve issues. In the extreme situation that a teacher or educator is in an unsafe situation, a HSR has the power (once they have been through the training) to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice and insist that the problem is resolved before more work can continue.

Are HSRs in other similar workplaces?

Yes! Every single school in South Australia and Victoria have trained HSRs. In hospitals HSRs are elected and trained for each floor. All NT staff can request the election of HSRs.

More information and resources

Key Details About HSRs

  1. Electing Health and Safety Reps (HSRs) means staff representatives are empowered to speak up about threats to staff well-being
  2. Every worker has the right to elect a HSR under the WHS act
  3. The training and work undertaken by HSRs in your school is paid for by the employer and not by the individual or the school

AEU NT Guide to HSRs

AEU NT Guide to HSRs

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© Authorised by Rachael Metcalfe, Branch Secretary, Australian Education Union Northern Territory Branch, Darwin (2023)

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