Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), there are a number of protections in place for both Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and businesses.

Protections for HSRs

A person or a business cannot discriminate or take other negative steps against a person because of their involvement in workplace health and safety.

Under HSWA, no one is allowed to pressure or mislead people around their roles, powers or entitlements.

HSWA protects a worker's involvement in workplace health and safety when: 

  • raising an issue or concern about health and safety
  • ceasing work because it is believed to be unsafe or unhealthy
  • taking part in resolving a health and safety issue
  • taking action to seek compliance
  • acting as an HSR, a member of a Health and Safety Committee (HSC), or in another role under HSWA
  • using the lawful powers as an HSR or member of an HSC, for example directing a worker to cease unsafe work.

Examples of negative steps

Actions which could be considered negative steps include doing, or threatening to do, any of the following:

  • dismissing or refusing the employment of a worker or contractor
  • terminating or refusing to enter an agreement with a worker or contractor
  • refusing to offer a worker the same work conditions available to similar workers (for example, terms of employment, training or promotion)
  • treating a worker differently to similar workers in a way that negatively impacts their employment, job performance or satisfaction. 

It is also against the law if anyone:

  • seeks to threaten a person so that they use (or don’t use) a power under HSWA
  • seeks to threaten a worker so that they stop being an HSR or member of an HSC
  • deliberately tells a worker false or misleading information about HSWA, including:
    • their rights
    • obligations
    • ability to start a process and participate in a process, or
    • make a complaint.

If you have any concerns, you can talk to us in confidence.

Protections for businesses

HSWA has checks and balances against improper use of HSR powers, such as:

  • limiting the powers to the particular work group the HSR represents
  • confining the role to health and safety purposes
  • setting some specific limits (for example, access to workers’ personal information)
  • involving WorkSafe to help resolve issues, remove an HSR who is acting improperly, or remove a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN).