Do I need a Health and Safety Committee (HSC)?

Do I need a Health and Safety Committee (HSC)?

The answer to this question is not straight forward and the legislation allows a business to implement what works for them, however the information below gives some guidance on how PCBU’s should approach this.

Who can make a request for an HSC?

The following people can request that a PCBU establish an HSC for part or all of the business or undertaking:

  • A Health and Safety Representative for a work group at that workplace; or
  • 5 or more workers at that workplace.

A PCBU can decide to set up an HSC

Even if the PCBU does not need to have an HSC (that is, it is exempt because of the size and nature of its business), it can still decide to set one up for the workplace or part of the workplace.

Which PCBUs must make a decision about whether to establish an HSC?

A PCBU must make a decision on the request for an HSC unless:

  • the business or undertaking has fewer than 20 workers; and
  • is not a high-risk industry or sector

The count should be based on the number of workers at the time that the request for an HSC is made.

When counting workers a PCBU does not have to include volunteer workers as Part 3 of HSWA does not apply to volunteer workers.

PCBU’s written response if not required to make a decision

If a PCBU is not required to decide whether to establish an HSC, they must write to the workers/ HSRs who put in the request to explain this, within a reasonable time.

While a ‘reasonable time’ is not defined, this should happen as soon as is practicable and no later than two months.

How long does a PCBU have to decide?

Within two months of receiving a request for an HSC the PCBU must decide whether to establish an HSC for the business or undertaking, or part of the business or undertaking.

When can a PCBU refuse a request for an HSC?

A PCBU can refuse a request for an HSC if the PCBU is satisfied that its existing worker participation practices are effective.

Worker participation practices must provide reasonable ongoing opportunities for workers to participate effectively in improving workplace health and safety.

Here are some key questions to ask when considering whether worker participation practices are effective:

  • Do workers know how to participate, and use opportunities to do so?
  • Does the PCBU act promptly when health and safety matters have been raised by workers?
  • Do decision-makers in the business or undertaking consider and respond to workers’ suggestions for improving health and safety?
  • Does the PCBU use appropriate systems to document and track responses?

When and how does the PCBU share its decision to accept or refuse the request?

A PCBU must share, in writing, its decision about whether or not it will establish an HSC. The decision must be shared with workers who the PCBU considers to have an interest in the decision:

  • as soon as practicable, and
  • no later than 14 days (the time prescribed in the Regulations) after the date that the decision is made.

The PCBU could share its decision by:

  • announcing the decision on a noticeboard (eg in the lunchroom)
  • circulating the statement about the decision by email or text
  • sharing the decision on the intranet.

If a PCBU decides to refuse a request for an HSC, the written notice must include:

  • the reasons for the decision; and
  • a statement that workers may raise the refusal as an issue under Subpart 6 (Issue Resolution) of HSWA.

If this article raises any questions then contact Rob on 022 45544445 or email: safety@qhse.co.nz to discuss your concerns and how we may help you in this area.