The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) gives Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) a number of functions and powers.

The functions of an HSR include:

  • representing workers on health and safety matters
  • making recommendations on health and safety
  • investigating complaints and risks to worker health and safety
  • monitoring health and safety measures taken by the PCBU
  • giving feedback to the PCBU about how it is meeting its duties

An HSR’s powers include:

  • requesting relevant information from the PCBU
  • entering and inspecting a workplace
  • attending interviews

HSWA gives additional powers to HSRs only after they have completed HSR health and safety training specified in the Regulations for Worker Engagement, Participation and Representation(external link). The regulations outline an HSR’s entitlement to annual training, with some limitations.

Additional powers for trained HSRs include:

  • issuing Provisional Improvement Notices (PINs) to address a health or safety problem
  • directing a worker to cease work that would expose them to serious risk arising from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard. This supports the existing right for a worker to cease work in this situation.

Requesting relevant information

An HSR may request that the PCBU provide information necessary for the HSR to perform their functions or exercise their powers. This includes information related to:

  • hazards at the workplace and the associated risks
  • the health and safety of workers (except personal information, unless the worker gives consent)

Inspecting a workplace

An HSR may, at any reasonable time, enter and inspect any area of a workplace.

The HSR must give notice of an intended inspection, unless they are inspecting the workplace in the event of an incident or any situation involving serious risk to the health of a worker.

Attending interviews

With the consent of the workers involved, an HSR may attend an interview concerning work health and safety between a worker (or group of workers) that they represent and an inspector or the PCBU.

The inspector may refuse to allow the HSR to be present if they believe that their presence would prejudice the maintenance of the law.

Attending training

HSRs are given an annual training entitlement to attend training. An HSR may choose what training to go on (in consultation with the PCBU), but the PCBU may decline that training due to the cost or disruption to the business.

The PCBU must fund the HSR training and allow access to the training as soon as is practicable, and the PCBU must respond no later than three months after the request to attend training has been received.

Initial HSR training must be completed before an HSR can issue a provisional improvement notice (PIN) or direct a worker to cease unsafe work. They must first achieve the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) unit standard.

The Worker Engagement, Participation and Representation Regulations set the maximum number of annual paid leave days for training that a PCBU is required to give. This is based on the number of workers it has.

Issuing a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN)

An HSR may issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) if they believe that a person is contravening, or is likely to contravene, the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) or regulations. 

A PIN can be issued to any person, including the PCBU the HSR works for or a co-worker.

A PIN directs a duty holder to remedy a specific aspect of their work activity or workplace. It advises what needs to be changed and sets a timeframe for the change to be made.

A sample Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) Form is available to adapt or use as is.

The person or business who receives the PIN can, within seven days, ask WorkSafe to review the PIN.

Directing a worker to cease unsafe work

An HSR may direct a worker who is in their work group to cease work if they reasonably believe that carrying out the work would expose the worker, or any other person, to a serious risk arising from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard. 

The HSR should consult with the PCBU about the matter before giving the direction. If, after a reasonable time, the PCBU does not act appropriately, the HSR can then give the direction. However if the risk is serious enough, the HSR may direct the worker to cease work immediately without consulting the PCBU. The HSR must notify the PCBU that a direction has been given.

This power supports the general right of all workers to cease work in this situation. Workers do not need to wait for a direction from an HSR.

The HSR, PCBU or worker may ask WorkSafe to assist in resolving an issue with the cessation of work.