OHS Representatives Meeting
October 8, 1996
Re: Meeting of OH&S Committee Employee Representatives
The Union is holding a meeting of employee representatives on OH&S committees;
DATE: Thursday 24 October, 1996,
TIME: 2pm – 4pm,
VENUE: Union Office – 267 Sussex St, Sydney.
The meeting has been called to discuss;
1. Proposed amendments to the OH&S Act, particularly changes to OH&S Workplace Committees.
2. Re-structure of NSWFB OH&S Committees.
3. Goals and strategy for NSWFB OH&S Committees.
1. The Union is involved in preparing a submission on amendments to the NSW OH&S Act, in conjunction with NSW Labor Council affiliated Unions. The submission, which is due on 30 October, 1996, will be considered in the NSW Labor Government’s review of the current legislation.
A significant area of interest to the FBEU is amendments that relate to the operation of workplace OH&S committees.
The current OH&S Act’s provisions that deal with workplace committees create a number of difficulties in terms of their application to the NSWFB.
For example, the current prescriptive provisions in the Act, codifying a nexus between workplace size (20 or more employees) and legal recognition of committee formation and structure, means that, given the present NSWFB set up, there is no access to enforcement of the provisions of the Act as they relate to functions and powers of committees.
Enclosed for your consideration and comment is a draft version of the NSW Labor Council submission. The Union seeks your comments and recommendations on this submission, with particular regard to the section on Workplace Committees (Part 4: Occupational Health and Safety Committees and Elected Safety Representatives, pp. 23 – 37).
Also enclosed is a copy of a report prepared for the NSW WorkCover Authority on the effectiveness of OH&S Committees in NSW operating under the current legislation. Many of the frustrations expressed in the report seem to have resonance with the experiences of FBEU members.
2. Some developments have occurred in recent weeks that may result in the re-structure of NSWFB OH&S Committees. The unions that represent other categories of the Departments employees (AMWU – Chullora workshops and PSA – administrative and clerical) have expressed concern that their members are not represented on the committees.
The Union understands that the AMWU and PSA are intending to make an appeal to the Occupational Health Safety and Rehabilitation Council pursuant to Reg. 14, APPEAL TO COUNCIL, of the Occupational Health and Safety (Committees in Workplaces) Regulation. Reg. 14(2) provides;
A prescribed person may appeal to the Council in respect of any 1 or
more of the following matters:-
(c) Any matter concerning the composition or size of any such committee, or the procedure adopted by any such committee for the conduct of its affairs, which is considered inadequate or inappropriate to ensure effective workplace representation or otherwise to achieve the objects of the Act.
‘Effective representation’ is detailed in Reg 6, COMPOSITION AND SIZE OF COMMITTEE, of the Occupational Health and Safety (Committees in Workplaces) Regulation. Specifically, Reg. 6(3) [Factors re work-place to be considered], provides;
In order to ensure effective representation for all persons employed at a place of work, the following factors in respect of the place of work are to be taken into account in determining the composition and size of an occupational health and safety committee:-
(a) The operation of various shifts.
(b) Various departments or sub-units.
(c) Geographical location.
(d) The variety of different occupations.
(e) The composition of the workforce.
(f) The degree and character of the hazards present at the place of work.
The FBEU has indicated to the AMWU and PSA that some support exists for their representations on behalf of their members. FBEU, however, will have to be involved, and agreeable to any re-structured committees.
As the democratic process to elect current employee representatives to the OH&S committees has operated to exclude numerical minorities such as employees at the workshops and clerical/administrative employees, we will need to consider separate electoral franchises for different categories of the workforce and a fair system of proportionate representation.
3. The meeting could provide a forum for OH&S committee employee representatives to discuss and co-ordinate goals and strategies for achieving positive OH&S outcomes.
We look forward to seeing you at the meeting on Thursday 24 October, 1996. Please advise your availability to attend to Peggy Howes at the Union Office on (02) 267 5552.
Members on shift or outside the Sydney GSA can join the meeting via Confer-link. If you wish to access this facility please contact Peggy Howes on the above number and nominate a contact number.
Yours in Solidarity,
for State Secretary
cc: State Committee of Management (SCOM)
Sub-Branch Executive Committees