What is an HSR, do all businesses need to have a HSR or a Health and Safety Committee (HSC), what is a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN), and can HSRs, trained under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, issue PINS or cease unsafe work orders under HSWA?

An HSR is a worker who has been elected by the members of their work group to represent them in health and safety matters.

Any business can have HSRs and they are a well-established way to support worker engagement and participation.

HSRs are elected by a work group, which is a defined group of workers who work for the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU). The work group can be the whole workplace or it can be workers grouped by work areas, occupations, work sites or other arrangements. How a work group or work groups are organised will depend on what is effective for the PCBU and the workers, given the structure of the business or undertaking.

Any business can voluntarily choose to have HSRs and/or an HSC.

Businesses are only required to initiate an election for HSRs or establish an HSC if workers ask for them.

If a worker asks for an HSR, the business must initiate an election.

If an HSR, or five or more workers, ask for an HSC, the business must establish one.

If HSRs and/or HSCs are part of a business’ worker participation practice(s), the Act(external link) and Regulations(external link) set out how they will work, including their functions and powers, and the business’ obligation to provide support.

First work out if you need to count workers.

The number of workers in a business affects some legal requirements for that business. You only need to count workers if you are working out:

  • how many HSRs your business must have, but only if your business will have a single workgroup for the election. The whole business equals one workgroup, which is the default in the Act. Any business that doesn’t set up multiple work groups has a mandatory minimum ratio of one HSR for every 19 workers, or
  • the maximum number of days’ paid leave your business must give to HSRs across the entire business or undertaking in a given year.

You need to count the total number of actual workers, rather than full-time equivalents. The count is done to help you support the participation and involvement of the entire workforce, including part-time workers.

Businesses have the same responsibility for the health and safety of all workers. However, volunteer workers are not included when counting workers for any reason connected to your worker engagement, participation and representation duties. Prisoners carrying out work inside a prison are also excluded.

A Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) is a written notice issued by an 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 initial or additional HSR health and safety training specified in the Regulations for Worker Engagement, Participation and Representation.

An HSR can issue a PIN to a person or business if the HSR reasonably believes that person is contravening, or is likely to contravene, a provision of HSWA or the Regulations. ‘Contravene’ means doing something that breaks a law.

The PIN tells the person what the health and safety issue is and can include recommendations to resolve the issue (by fixing or preventing a problem) by a certain date.

However, the HSR must not issue a PIN to a person or business unless they have first consulted that person or business.

An HSR must not issue a PIN if a WorkSafe inspector has already issued an improvement notice or a prohibition notice about the same matter.

No. Only HSRs who have completed transitional training or completed the HSR unit standard 29315 are able to issue PINs or cease work orders under HSWA.

See HSRs – training requirements for more information.