Health and safety committees

Workplace Health and Safety series

See also:


Workplace consultation 

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 aims to protect workers and others against harm to their health, safety and welfare. The Act recognises the role of a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU – generally the employer), unions, and workers in making workplaces healthier and safer. 

It is essential there is consultation between a PCBU and workers. Under the Act, PCBUs have an obligation to consult with workers and their representatives. 

  • To make consultation more effective, workers can elect health and safety representatives (HSRs) to represent their views to the employer. Health and safety committees provide a forum where consultation and communication can occur. 
  • What is a health and safety committee? 
  • A health and safety committee (HSR) is a forum for employers and workers to discuss health and safety problems and find solutions. 
  • The main purpose of the committee is to help employers and workers work together to make the workplace healthy and safe. The various purposes of the committee include: 
  • to assist cooperation between the person conducting a business or undertaking and workers in carrying out measures designed to ensure the workers’ health and safety at work. 
  • to assist in developing standards, rules and procedures relating to health and safety. 
  • any functions prescribed by regulations. 
  • any other functions agreed between the person conducting the business or undertaking and the HSC. 

The committee is entitled to review information on workplace injuries, illnesses, dangerous events, hazards and risk assessments (consent is required for information that identifies someone’s personal or medical information). 

Who sets up a committee? 

Any PCBU may establish a health and safety committee. A committee must be set up at the request of a HSR or when five or more workers at a workplace request there be a health and safety committee. This request must occur within two months of it being made. 

Who should be members of the committee? 

At least half the committee members must be workers who are not nominated by the employer. If the workplace has a HSR, they must be on the committee if they choose to do so. Workers must choose the people who they want to represent them. Workers should make sure that people from all sections of the workplace are included, and keep differences in sex, nationality, age, culture, and occupations in mind. 

There should be a management representative on the committee who has the power to act on the committee’s recommendations. 

The PCBU and workers should negotiate who is on the committee. If an agreement cannot be reached, the regulator can appoint an inspector to decide on the make-up of the committee. 

How often does the committee meet? 

Committees must meet at least once every three months but may decide to meet more often.  

Meetings should take place during ordinary working hours at the workplace, although the needs of shift workers should be considered. 

A committee must meet at any reasonable time at the request of at least half its members. 

How often the committee meets will depend on: 

  • how much work is handled by the committee 
  • the size of the workplace or area covered by the committee 
  • the type of work being carried out 
  • the type of hazards and the seriousness of the risks across the workplace or area covered by the committee. 

Other factors to consider include: 

  • if there are frequent changes in the workplace or work  
  • processes 
  • when new equipment is bought or new work systems introduced 
  • if new health and safety standards are introduced. 

Are members of the committee civilly liable? 

A committee member is not civilly liable for performing or failing to perform a health and safety entitlement. 

For more detailed information on HSRs, committees, or your entitlements and obligations, refer to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Consultation, Co-operation and Coordination Code of Practice 2011. 

If you require further information, please contact Member Connect on 3099 3210 or 1800 177 273. 

Further information is also available via the Safe Work Australia Worker Representation and Participation Guide. 

QNMU Information Sheet Workplace Health and Safety Series
Updated 2021