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Understanding employee rights: OHS

Understanding employee rights: OHS

You have the right to a safe and healthy workplace. Your employer has a duty to provide and maintain a safe work environment for employees, so far as is reasonably practicable (s21 OHS Act 2004).  It is important you know your OHS rights.

You have the right to Victorian OHS Act, 2004
be provided (and have maintained) plant and systems of work that are safe and do not pose health risks (e.g. the use, storage and maintenance of lifting equipment; the pace and frequency of work).


Section 21 (2) (a)
the absence of risks to health and safety

connected with the use, handling, storage and transport of plant or substances (e.g. cytotoxic chemicals, dusts and fibres).


Section 21 (2) (b)
a workplace that is maintained in a condition that is safe and without health risks (e.g. controlling noise and lighting levels).


Section 21 (2) (c)
adequate facilities for your welfare at work (e.g. washrooms, lockers and dining areas, toilets, first aid, access to water).


Section 21(2)(d)
the information, instruction, training and supervision you need to do your job safely.


Section 21(2)(e)


your health and conditions at the workplace monitored.


Section 22(1) (a)

What is a Health and Safety Representative (HSR)?

As an employee, you have the right to be represented by a HSR (s54). HSRs have a voice in the workplace, a role in raising and resolving any OHS issues with their employer, and have legislated powers to take issues further, if necessary. The role is voluntary and HSRs cannot be appointed by management.  If you don’t have an HSR visit or call ANMF InfoLine.

How are HSR elections conducted?

It is up to the members of the designated work group (DWG) to decide on the process for calling for nominations within the DWG, and on how an election is to be conducted (if one is required). DWGs are divisions within your workplace negotiated with management. The election process may be informal, e.g. with a show of hands. Alternatively, it may involve a more formal process, such as the use of ballots. Employees may also choose to ask their union establish DWGs or to run the election for them. For public general sector members, there is an agreed process in the EBA for DWG/ HSR elections (clause 102)/ training and public mental health sector clause 55.6 and 55.7.

Can the HSR be changed?

A HSR’s term expires at three years, at which point the HSRs is eligible to be re-elected (section 54(1)).  If the DWG has concerns with their HSR, the Act provides for a way to change their representative but only if the person has already held office for at least 12 months (s54(2)(d)).

What are my consultation rights?

Sections 35 and 36 of the OHS Act, give you have the right to be consulted on health and safety issues that include any proposed changes that the employer wants to make that do or may impact on your OHS. Where employees are represented by HSRs, employers must involve the HSRs in consultation.

What can I do if I have an OHS concern?

You should report your concerns via your internal reporting system – in most workplaces this would be by completing an incident or hazard report (e.g. RiskMan or VHIMS). Your employer has a duty to identify hazards in the workplace, investigate incidents, assess the risk and then implement controls to either eliminate the hazard or mitigate the impact of the hazard. This process must be done in consultation with HSRs. So, reporting concerns, hazards and incidents is critical in getting OHS concerns addressed. Members are encouraged to contact the ANMF Information Line on 9275 9333 or Worksafe Advisory Service 9641 1444 for further information and assistance.