Worksafe at Schools - Staff Participation in Health and Safety Management
A process for consulting with staff on health and safety matters and establishing a Health and Safety Committee.
Action Guide 6: Staff Participation in Health and Safety Management
The well being and safety of people within a school community is the concern of everyone in that community. This section suggests ways in which staff can be formally involved in the school's management of health and safety.
The involvement of staff is key to improving health and safety in the school workplace. Staff commitment to health and safety increases when they have a genuine opportunity to participate.
The Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Act 2002 requires that where an employer has 30 employees (or more), or one of the employees requires it, a formal system must be developed for employee participation in health & safety issues.
The Act is not prescriptive about what type of system must be developed. Rather, it encourages the employer and employees to establish a system that best meets the needs of their workplace.
Health and safety forums should be held at least quarterly.
- Hold a full staff meeting
- Establish formal mechanisms for staff involvement in your school (taking into account factors such as the size of the school)
- Develop terms of reference
- Agree on a process for choosing people to fill roles, such as the staff representative
- Arrange a schedule of regular meetings
- Agree on a work plan
Establishing Formal Mechanisms For Staff Involvement
Mutual trust and confidence, effective communication and a problem-solving approach are essential ingredients for meaningful involvement by staff.
Formal mechanisms for staff participation in the school's management of health and safety is encouraged for all schools, and is a requirement of the Act where there are 30 employees or more. These mechanisms could include the following:
Staff Health and Safety Representative
Staff elect a Representative who meets regularly with the Health and Safety Coordinator.
Health and Safety Committee
Staff appoint an appropriate number of committee members, and the Board or the Principal appoints one or more members (including the Coordinator).
Full staff meetings
All staff (including support staff) meet regularly with the Health and Safety Coordinator to resolve issues and problems.
Any combination of the above. For example, staff choose a Representative and also hold full staff meetings.
Refer to Action Guide 6, Toolkit 9A for suggested terms of reference for the Health and Safety Committee and Staff Representatives.
The Health and Safety Forums must:
- Inform other members of the school community about the outcome of meetings
- Consult the school community about health and safety performance and initiatives
Health And Safety Representatives
The school staff can elect Staff Health and Safety Representatives, who will represent their interests in matters relating to health and safety. The school should ensure that these people are adequately resourced and supported to fulfil this role. Action Guide 6, Toolkit 9B provides an example of the Staff Representative and/or Health and Safety Committee election process.
The Staff Health and Safety representative will meet regularly with the schools' Health and Safety Co-ordinator. The Health and Safety Co-ordinator is the person appointed by the Board of Trustees to carry out the Board's duties under the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Act 2002, to resolve issues and problems and participate in development of policies, plans and processes.
Under the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Act 2002, up to two days training leave must be provided for health and safety representatives each year, unless it is agreed otherwise between employer and union.
The leave is attendance at approved courses, and cannot be taken at a time that would unreasonably disrupt operation of the school.
Although the number of health and safety representatives is not capped, the training leave entitlement is subject to a cap in each workplace, based on the number of employees:
1-5 employees 2 days
6-50 employees 6 days
51-280 employees 1 day for every 8 employees or part of that number.
Health And Safety Committee
A school can establish a Health and Safety Committee which:
- Meets regularly to resolve issues and problems
- Participates in development of policies, plans and processes
- Takes responsibility for some aspects of health and safety management
The Health and Safety Committee could comprise:
- The Health and Safety Coordinator
- Staff Representatives elected by staff - including a range of staff
- Additional members appointed by the Board of Trustees or the Principal
The Health and Safety Committee might include a student representative. Meetings should be publicised and open to attendance by members of the school community.
Meetings should be held at least quarterly.