Health and safety representatives (HSRs)
A health and safety representative (HSR) plays an important part in advancing occupational health and safety in the Australian maritime industry.
The HSR role explained
Health and safety representatives, commonly referred to as HSRs, are employees who are selected to represent the health and safety interests of their designated work group.
Health and safety representatives play a key role in improving health and safety in their workplace. As a health and safety representative (HSR) you:
- represent the health and safety interests of employees in your designated work group and communicate their concerns to the operator to resolve
- promote the health and safety of employees in your designated work group
- play a key role in preventing risks to employee health and safety
- monitor that the operator is meeting health and safety standards
- may exercise your powers under the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 (OHS(MI) Act).
You are not expected to be an expert on health and safety, and you are not responsible for fixing problems in your workplace.
Who can be a HSR
A health and safety representative (HSR) is an employee who is selected for this role.
You can be a health and safety representative (HSR) if:
- you are a member of the designated work group who elected you, and
- you have not been disqualified from performing the HSR role.
You may be disqualified from the role if the Seacare Authority determines that you:
- used a power or carried out a function for an improper purpose, or
- used or disclosed information obtained for an improper purpose.
If you are not covered under the Seacare scheme, you work under a state authority and need to refer to your state’s legislation.
Powers and functions of a HSR
Your primary role as a health and safety representative (HSR) is to represent members of your designated work group in health and safety matters.
In order to do this, the legislation provides HSRs with certain powers, which include to:
- inspect a workplace
- represent their designated work group in health and safety consultations with the operator
- examine the records of the health and safety committee
- investigate complaints made by members of their designated work group about health and safety at work
- request that an inspector or the inspectorate, which is the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), undertake an investigation – the person in command must be notified of this request
- accompany an investigator during an investigation
- be present at any interview about health and safety between an inspector and operator or consultant
- initiate emergency stop work procedures in certain circumstances
- issue a provisional improvement notice (PIN) - You must first consult with the person supervising the work and then the person in command to try to reach agreement, unless the risk is so serious and immediate that it isn’t reasonable to do so
- ask an inspector or the inspectorate, which is AMSA, to assist, where a work health and safety issue has not been resolved after reasonable efforts
- request that a Health and Safety Committee be established.
As a HSR, you can represent other designated work groups if the HSR from that other work group is unavailable and:
- there is a serious risk to health or safety resulting from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard, or
- a member of the other designated work group asks for your help.
You must have completed accredited HSR training before you can carry out these powers and functions.
When carrying out your health and safety representative (HSR) powers and functions, you need to:
- use your powers appropriately and only in relation to work health and safety matters
- make sure any action you take while exercising your powers is not intended to cause harm to the operator
- represent members of your designated work group in a professional, timely and ethical manner.
Regarding HSR training, you are responsible for:
- arranging with your operator to attend accredited training as soon as practicable after your selection to the role
- complying with your operator and training providers training requirements about attendance, appropriate behaviour, participation in the mandatory skills development activities, feedback, and evaluation requirements of the course.
For further guidance on the role powers and responsibilities of HSRs, refer to the Health and Safety Representatives handbook (PDF, 1.1 MB).
As a health and safety representative (HSR), you are not liable in civil proceedings for anything you do, or don’t do, in good faith when carrying out your powers and functions under the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 (OHS (MI) Act).
You are also not personally liable for anything you do that you reasonably believe was authorised under the (OHS (MI) Act).
You can also choose when to exercise your powers and functions as a HSR. This means there is no legal duty or obligation for you to perform any of the functions of a HSR, or to exercise any powers of a HSR, under the (OHS (MI) Act).
Time to perform the HSR role
As a health and safety representative (HSR), you are entitled to spend as much paid work time as is necessary to exercise your powers and perform your functions under the (OHS (MI) Act).
The operator must allow you to take paid time off work to carry out the health and safety representative (HSR) role including to:
- take an accredited HSR course
- undertake workplace inspections
- be present at an interview about the safety of an employee with the operator or an investigator.
Whenever necessary, you may ask a consultant to assist in your health and safety representative (HSR) functions. However, the operator is not required to pay for any external assistants who help a HSR.
Membership of the Health and Safety Committee
A Health and Safety Committee may be established on a prescribed ship or prescribed unit, under the OHS(MI) Act, when:
- the employees are included in one or more designated work groups and
- the operator is requested to establish the committee by the HSR for one of the designated work groups or an involved union.
A Health and Safety Committee generally includes the HSRs on board and the person in command of the vessel representing management.
The committee is responsible for broader occupational health and safety issues, such as:
- ensuring HSRs are appropriately trained
- preventative health and safety issues
- strategies to increase health and safety awareness among crew members
- developing proposals to assist the ship operator improve occupational health and safety.
It can also be a way for employees to provide feedback to whoever is in command of the vessel and/or the ship operator.
As a HSR, you don’t have to be a member of a Health and Safety Committee, but you may find it useful.
Join the HSR network
Once selected as HSR, submit the HSR network registration online form to register your details with the Seacare Authority and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA).
When you register you become part of our network for HSRs and we will share information and give you the opportunity to provide feedback on matters relevant to HSRs.
HSR selection process
How designated work groups are formed
A designated work group is a grouping of employees for the purposes of safeguarding the occupational health and safety interests of employees.
Involved unions and operators consult on how designated work group/s will be formed on the ship, under the OHS(MI) Act.
Designated work groups can be formed around the classiﬁcation of employees on the ship, for example mates, engineers, integrated ratings, and catering staff.
Ships with a small crew may only need one designated work group.
Each designated work group may select one of its members to represent them on health and safety matters as HSR.
How HSRs are selected or elected
Members of a designated work group may agree among themselves as to who will be their HSR.
However, if more than one member of the designated work group wants the role, the relevant union must arrange an election. Each designated work group member is entitled to one vote in the election.
When the HSR has been selected, the person in command of the vessel should be advised in writing. If an election has been taken place, the union should advise all members of the designated work group of the outcome.
Each crew swing needs to make arrangements for the selection of a HSR.
See division 2 of the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 (OHS(MI) Act) for an outline of the process for the selection of HSRs and their role.
Length of office
If you are elected as a health and safety representative (HSR), you hold office for two years unless you:
- stop being a worker on the prescribed ship or unit that is part of a designated work group, or
- are disqualified as a HSR.
When you identify an issue
If you identify a health and safety issue and believe the ship or unit is not complying with a requirement in the legislation, there are actions you should take as a HSR.
Throughout the process, involve and update your fellow employees on any health and safety matter that concerns them.
An immediate threat to health and safety
You must inform a supervisor if you have reasonable cause to believe there is an immediate threat to the health or safety of one or more employees in your designated work group.
If no supervisor can be contacted immediately, direct the employee/s to stop performing the work, in a safe manner, and as soon as practicable inform a supervisor.
No immediate threat to health and safety
If there is no immediate threat to health and safety, you must follow this process.
Step 1: Consult
You must first consult with the person supervising the work performed and attempt to reach agreement on rectifying the issue or preventing the contravention.
If you and the supervisor fail to agree on a solution to the health and safety issue, or if the problem is too complex to be ﬁxed on the spot, then you must, as the next step, consult with the person in command in an attempt to reach agreement on a solution. This must be done before taking steps to issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN).
The person in command of the ship will usually be the master. However, when the master is not on board or available, the person in command is the person responsible for the operations of the ship or unit.
Occupational health and safety legislation encourages resolving issues through consultation. Consulting effectively is an important skill you will need in your role.
Step 2: Issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN)
You may issue a Provision Improvement Notice (PIN) to the person in command, if, after consulting:
- you cannot agree on an appropriate course of action to resolve the issue, within a reasonable time
- you reasonably believe an operator is contravening, or has contravened, the (OHS(MI) Act) or the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Regulations 1995 (the Regulations), and the contravention affects or may affect employees in your designated work group.
PINs must specify:
- which part of the OHS(MI) Act or Regulations is being contravened or is likely to be contravened
- the reasons the OHS(MI) Act or Regulations are being contravened or are likely to be contravened
- the time period for fixing the problem, which must not be less than seven days after the PIN is issued and must be reasonable. For example, if the ship is at sea or is operating in a remote area and spare parts or specialist services are required, you must allow for this in the PIN.
You may also specify in the PIN any temporary measures considered necessary until the problem can be ﬁxed.
As a HSR, you may, if appropriate, extend the time period specified in the PIN. This must be done in writing before the expiry date originally specified.
When the PIN has been completed it must be given to the person in command and displayed in the area of the ship that is affected by the notice.
You should keep a copy of the PIN and notify the Inspectorate that a PIN has been issued.
View the PIN form
View the Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) form, form 1 in the Schedule to the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Regulations 1995.
The instructions for ﬁlling out a PIN are set out in the notes.
Samples of a PIN are provided in approved OHS training courses and can be found in the Health and Safety Representative (HSR) handbook (PDF, 1.1 MB). The instructions should be followed carefully.
Step 3: Attempt to resolve the issue raised in the PIN
A PIN cannot be ignored.
Every effort should be made by both parties to resolve the problem.
Once a person in command has received a PIN, they must take a series of steps, including notifying each employee affected by the issue of the PIN.
If the HSR and the person in command disagree on how and when a problem may be ﬁxed, the person in command may ask for advice from an Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) inspector. If the ship is in an Australian port, or at sea heading for an Australian port, the person in command would generally contact the local AMSA ofﬁce. In other circumstances, the person in command could contact either the AMSA ofﬁce in the ship’s home port or AMSA’s head ofﬁce in Canberra.
Once the person in command takes this step, the operation of the PIN is suspended. AMSA will arrange for an inspector to investigate the problem as soon as practicable and make a decision on an appropriate course of action.
Step 4: Contact the Inspectorate
Where a PIN is not resolved, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Inspectorate should be contacted either by:
- the HSR, if the person in command does not act within the specified timeframe, or
- the person in command, to dispute the PIN.
Generally, the inspector will want to discuss the problem with both the HSR and the person in command, and any other relevant person, before deciding.
The inspector normally visits the ship to examine and discuss the problem. However, if this is inconvenient, such as the ship is in a remote Australian port or overseas, the inspector may deal with the matter by phone, email or facsimile.
Alternatively, the inspector may arrange for someone with expertise to visit the ship and report back to the inspector, who will then make the decision.
If the operator, person in command or HSR is unhappy with the inspector’s decision on a health and safety issue, they can appeal to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
Responsibilities others have to HSRs
HSRs must be adequately trained, supported and encouraged if they are to be effective in their role.
Operator responsibilities to HSRs
The operator must ensure that you can exercise your powers and perform your functions as a HSR, under the Occupational Health and Safety (Maritime Industry) Act 1993 (OHS (MI) Act).
The operator must also allow you to take paid time off work to exercise your powers. This includes to:
- take an accredited HSR course
- undertake workplace inspections
- be present at an interview about the safety of an employee, about the operator or about an investigator.
HSR training is a mandatory requirement for those selected as a HSR. In regard to HSR training, the operator must:
- ensure that, as soon as practicable after your selection as a HSR, you attend an accredited training course
- pay any costs associated with attending HSR training
- ensure you are permitted to take the time off work, without loss of remuneration or other entitlements, necessary to undertake the training.
- ensure that where you are attending training involving workplace activities, there is a system in place to provide you with the on-the-job time and resources to complete the required work, whether it is a pre-course questionnaire or mid or post course project work.
- ensure that the person engaged to deliver HSR training under section 47 of the OHS(MI) Act, is accredited by the Seacare Authority and is provided with any specific organisational occupational health and safety requirements, such as onsite induction before a workplace inspection, information or documentation before training begins.
Other responsibilities the operator has to you are:
- Consulting with you about implementing workplace changes that may affect the health and safety of their employees.
- Providing you with information about risks to the health and safety of employees and facilities necessary to exercise your powers.
Seacare Authority responsibilities to HSRs
The Seacare Authority has the following responsibilities to your role:
- maintain a health and safety representative (HSR) handbook to help guide you in your role
- make sure HSR training provider information is available on our website and appropriate accreditation standards are being assessed and met.
- where there is no involved union in relation to a designated work group, authorisation of a person to conduct an election for a HSR and
- consider applications for the disqualification of a HSR.
As a HSR for a designated work group in the Seacare scheme, you are required to undertake a training course in occupational health and safety which is accredited by the Seacare Authority.
This training helps build the skills and knowledge to perform your role effectively. Once trained, you can exercise the powers of a HSR.
A course may be provided on a prescribed ship or a prescribed unit.
Your operator must permit you to take the necessary time off work to undertake the training, without loss of salary, remuneration or other entitlements.
Accredited HSR training providers
There are currently three training courses accredited by the Seacare Authority.
The providers of these courses are:
Australian Maritime Safety Consultants
Accredited until 20 May 2024
Course contact: Dominic Panetta
Phone and fax: 03 9323 1661
Mobile: 0404 031 858
Ferriby Group of Companies (Australia) Pty Ltd
Work Health and Safety Foundation (WHS Foundation)
To apply to become a provider of Seacare Authority-accredited training for HSRs, see Training providers.
The handbook aims to assist health and safety representatives (HSRs) and other employees to understand the role and responsibilities of a HSR.
- The Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) handbook (Full version) (PDF, 1.1 MB) is suited to HSRs. It provides guidance on the Seacare legislative framework, powers and responsibilities. It also provides scenarios, and blank and completed provisional improvement notices (PIN).
- The Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) handbook (Short version) (PDF, 610.5 KB) condenses the content of the full version of the handbook, and is appropriate for general distribution to employees.