Health and Safety Representatives Survey 2013

Overview

Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) are a requirement under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2012 and play an important role in representing the health and safety interests of workers in New South Wales (NSW) workplaces.

The objective of the HSR online survey was to provide *WorkCover NSW with information relating to the implementation in NSW workplaces of HSRs as a mechanism for work health and safety consultation under the new legislation.

The health and safety representatives survey collected feedback from workplaces that had adopted health and safety representatives as a means of workplace consultation under the new work health and safety legislation.

Benefits of the survey

The survey findings were intended to contribute to a broader policy level evaluation to help *WorkCover NSW understand the changes to work place safety consultation that have occurred since the introduction of the Work Health and Safety Act 2012.

Assessment of business perception is a valuable opportunity for WorkCover NSW to hear about industry safety practices and identify industry safety solutions and perceived barriers to implementing safety solutions, this can also assist us to tailor the products and services we provide.

Respondents

There were 1,111 respondents. Of these, 530 were HSRs and 581 were people not in HSR roles including business owners, Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), Managing Directors (MDs), senior managers or any type of worker. Respondents came from a diverse range of businesses in terms of size, workforce profile and type of industry.

The targeted groups sampled through the surveys included businesses who have adopted health and safety representatives as a workplace consultation arrangement and a random sample of businesses who may or may not have implemented this consultation arrangement.

WorkCover NSW commissioned a consultant to conduct a survey to explore:

  • Why and to what extent workplaces had adopted HSRs since the new legislation had been introduced in January 2012?
  • What were the current WHS consultation practices in businesses?
  • What was the current level of understanding of the HSR role and the impact of HSR training on workplaces?
  • How WorkCover NSW could support Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) to improve WHS?

The survey explored these through two key perspectives:

  • HSRs - people performing the HSR role in their organisation
  • Non-HSRs - people who performed other roles (e.g. PCBUs/managers)

Survey results

The response rate of 36 per cent provided a diverse range of business perspectives in terms of size, workforce and industry. The respondents were evenly spread between HSRs (48 per cent) and non-HSRs (52 per cent).

WHS Consultation

  • All types of WHS consultation activities were generally considered positively by all respondents, with non-HSRs a little more positive than HSRs
  • Non-HSRs were generally very aware of new WHS consultation requirements except for monitoring the health of workers and types of worker facilities needed
  • Although most organisations had a HSR, about 25 per cent of respondents indicated they had one because the new legislation required them to
  • Most respondents rated gathering and giving information to workers in their organisations and involving workers in decisions about managing WHS as very or extremely effective
  • More formal consultation activities (WHS Committees, HSRs) were likely to occur monthly, while less formal consultation (discussions, emails) were more likely to occur daily
  • Over 86 per cent of respondents indicated workplace change had occurred as a result of WHS consultation, with the most commonly reported changes being:
    • updated policies and procedures
    • changes to the physical working environment
    • conduct of risk assessments
    • training in policies and procedures
    • improved record keeping
  • Factors reported to have the most impact on an organisation’s ability to consult effectively were multiple sites, workers’ lack of interest and shift work
  • Organisations addressed these factors by increasing consultation or meetings, using flexible communication methods and improving planning of consultation activities
  • Organisations with more than 100 sites had scored a significantly lower score for effectiveness in involving workers in decisions about managing health and safety than organisations with 10 or fewer sites
  • Around 50 per cent of respondents acknowledged the new legislation had made either a little or a lot of impact on WHS consultation
  • The most common suggestions for additional consultation support from WorkCover NSW were for more information, training and face-to-face visits

HSRs

  • Over 80 per cent of HSRs were in the role voluntarily, however, 15 per cent were delegated the role
  • Most HSRs had at least six months experience in the role or previous Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) role – with over 30 per cent having 18 months experience
  • The most common activities HSRs were involved in were:
    • health and safety committee meetings
    • workplace inspections
    • risk assessment activities
  • HSR activities were well-supported by organisations with over 70 per cent:
    • consulted with directly about WHS issues
    • paid full wages whilst attending HSR training
    • assisted with workplace inspections
    • provided with hazards and risk information
  • Almost 70 per cent of businesses with HSRs said their HSR training was WorkCover NSW approved.
  • For HSRs who had received training:
    • 57 per cent was manager-initiated and 42 per cent HSR-initiated
    • 53 per cent attended the five day course and 45 per cent attended the 1 day course
    • less experienced HSRs were more likely to attend the five day course
    • more experienced HSRs were more likely to attend the one day course
    • over 60 per cent was delivered by an external provider at an external location
    • over 70 per cent of managers chose the training provider
    • over 57 per cent of managers chose the training location
  • Survey results showed HSR training had the following positive impacts:
    • post-training knowledge levels in all topic areas increased
    • the largest increased knowledge area was related to provisional improvement notices (PINs)
    • post-training skill levels significantly increased for interpreting legislation, hazard identification and risk assessment
  • Over 70 per cent of all HSRs who responded assessed themselves as very or extremely capable, with:
    • HSRs who were in the role voluntarily rating themselves more capable than those appointed
    • HSRs from larger organisations rated themselves as more capable than those from smaller organisations
  • The most common suggestions for additional HSR support from WorkCover NSW were the same as above (for consultation), as well as updates on changes to legislation and procedures

Further information

A copy of the full report is available by contacting gipa@safework.nsw.gov.au.

While this work has been undertaken according to valid and rigorous methodology, SafeWork NSW acknowledges that any such research is only the perceptions and actions of a sample of the broader population, so the findings must be taken in context with knowledge of our customers and influences on the way we do our work.

*Since 1 September 2015, the functions of WorkCover have been assumed by three new organisations, SafeWork NSW, icare (Insurance & Care NSW) and State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA). SafeWork NSW is now New South Wales’ workplace health and safety regulator.