WorkSafe Mahi Haumaru has updated its worker engagement, participation and representation guidance in line with a law change earlier this year.

International evidence shows that strong worker participation in health and safety plays a fundamental role in reducing work-related harm. Workers are best placed to identify how they want to be represented when it comes to work health and safety.

The Health and Safety at Work (Health and Safety Representatives and Committees) Amendment Act was passed in June 2023. The purpose of the legislation is to increase workers’ access to Health and Safety Representatives, and Health and Safety Committees.

The changes include:

  • If a worker asks for a Health and Safety Representative, the business must initiate an election. Previously, smaller businesses in sectors that were not prescribed high-risk could decline these requests.
  • If a Health and Safety Representative, or five or more workers, ask for a Health and Safety Committee, the business must establish one. Previously, a business could refuse a request to establish a committee where the business is satisfied existing practices sufficiently meet the requirements.

The Act does not make Health and Safety Representatives or Health and Safety Committees mandatory for businesses. Businesses will only be required to initiate an election for representatives or establish a committee where workers request them.

These changes intend to remove barriers that may have prevented workers from choosing the form of representation that best suits their needs.

As well as an update of the legal requirements, the guidelines have undergone minor content changes and a design refresh.

Read WorkSafe’s refreshed good practice guidelines and interpretive guidelines:

Good practice guidelines for worker engagement, participation and representation

Interpretive guidelines explaining requirements for Health and Safety Representatives and Committees