This section contains obligations for all staff. It sets out the University's process for resolving occupational health and safety (OHS) issues. The process is the relevant agreed procedure for resolving an issue concerning employee health and safety arising at a workplace or from the conduct of an undertaking by an employer under section 73(1) of the OHS Act.
- What is a health and safety issue?
- Obligation to resolve in accordance with agreed procedure
- Try informal steps first
- Formal issue resolution process
What is a health and safety issue?
A health and safety issue is a question or problem concerning OHS that requires resolution between the University and its staff.
- a disagreement between management and staff as to how a health or safety hazard is to be controlled such as the installation of a guard on a piece of plant
- concerns by a contractor about the safety of a work location such as a roof
- a discussion on whether a hazard has been controlled effectively such as the effectiveness of a ventilation system
- the adequacy of facilities such as toilets or drinking water.
Obligation to resolve in accordance with agreed procedure
The OHS Act obliges an employer and an employee to attempt to resolve the issue in accordance with an agreed resolution procedure (or if there is not such a procedure, the procedure prescribed by the OHS Regulations). If an issue cannot be resolved within a reasonable time, the Act gives any party involved in the resolution process the option of requesting the attendance of a WorkSafe inspector. The powers of WorkSafe inspectors are set out in the OHS Act.
Try informal steps first
Staff who wish to raise health and safety concerns are encouraged to first discuss them with their manager, either directly or through their Health and Safety Representative (HSR) (if any). If the concern is addressed satisfactorily at this stage, then there is no need to use the formal issue resolution process (see following section).
If a concern is raised with a manager, the manager is expected to:
- consider and investigate the concern, including contacting other areas of the University which may be able to assist, for example, Infrastructure and Planning Group (for facilities)
- if possible, implement, or arrange to be implemented, actions to address the concern, as soon as possible
- inform the staff member or HSR who raised the concern of the outcome of the investigation
- keep a record of the concern and the outcome and place on the appropriate file.
Formal issue resolution process
The parties to the process are the University, the HSR and the staff member(s) affected by the issue.
Where practical, the informal process above should be tried first. Either party may initiate the process.
For the purposes of this process the University is represented by, in the case of:
- a Faculty - the Executive Dean (who may nominate a Head of School)
- a Division or an Institute - the Executive Director
- other organisational areas – the Head of the area
Where this is not appropriate or practical, the University's representative is the Chief Operating Officer.
In the case of the affected employee(s), if there is a Designated Work Group (DWG) and an HSR, then the HSR represents the staff member(s).
Where there is no HSR, and there is more than one affected staff member, the staff members may nominate a representative from among their number, or participate personally.
Either party may notify the other party of an issue. Notification is to be in writing. Where staff are unrepresented, all affected staff are to be notified by the University's representative.
The University's representative and the staff or their representatives are to meet as soon as possible after notification to attempt to resolve the issue.
The parties should discuss at least the following matters at the meeting (and any further meeting):
- a summary of the issue, including what it is, where it is and how many staff it affects
- a summary of efforts made to date to address the issue, including dealings with the Health, Wellbeing and Safety Unit
- whether there are any specific relevant legislative requirements
- which officers and areas of the University have responsibilities relating to the issue (e.g. consider the role of Infrastructure and Planning Group or Campus Services)
- if the issue is about a risk to health or safety, whether the risk can be eliminated and if so the options for eliminating the risk
- if a risk cannot be eliminated, whether the risk can be reduced or at least whether staff can be protected from the risk (and if so, how), and
- whether any external expert advice (e.g. from a consulting engineer) on the particular issue should be obtained
- any cost associated with possible solutions.
In relation to the funding of external expert advice and the cost of possible solutions, the University's representative is to explore whether there are funds able to be made available by the University and if so the avenue through which they are to be obtained (including any urgent funding for issues which warrant attention in the short term).
Depending on the issue, it could be resolved by, for example:
- modification of equipment
- new equipment
- servicing of equipment
- a review of work practices
- modification of work practices
- change to workplace facilities
- repair to a structure
- health checks
- noise level checks
- new or changed signage
- provision of training
- provision of information.
If possible, the issue should be resolved in the first meeting, and a short agreement and implementation plan drawn up, to enable the issue to be addressed promptly.
If the resolution process is complex or prolonged, a timetable for the process and who is to do what should be agreed at the first meeting.
In any event, the issue and the agreed steps to resolve the issue must be put in writing and copies provided to both parties and the Manager, Health, Wellbeing and Safety.
The agreement must contain implementation dates and responsibilities.
The University's representative must:
- monitor the compliance with the implementation dates
- keep the staff representative or, if there is no staff representative, all affected staff, informed of progress and the conclusion of the matter, personally or by email as practical
- keep a record on a central registry file of the issue, the resolution process, any action plans and agreed outcomes
- report the issue and how it was dealt with to the next meeting of the relevant campus Health, Wellbeing and Safety committee(s) (contact the Manager, Health, Wellbeing and Safety to arrange this).
The OHS Act provides that where a health and safety issue in the workplace involves an immediate threat to the health and safety of any person, and given the nature of the threat and degree of process it is not appropriate to adopt the above issue resolution process, a direction to cease work may be given by the University or an HSR (where the issue arises in relation to a DWG), after consultation between them.
Any party involved in attempting to resolve the issue may ask WorkSafe for an inspector to attend the workplace. The Health, Wellbeing and Safety Unit should be advised in advance of any such request.