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Calling for more women HSRs!


What makes a good HSR? A well trained HSR! What makes a better HSR? A union HSR! What makes an even better HSR? Women standing for women in the workplace!

Safety is better when it is organised and represented!  

Women’s workplace rights have come a long way over the years, but there’s still a need for change — and specifically, a need for women to step up in the workplace. It is your right to step up and request a safer workforce (or demand it, if necessary). All workers have the right to a safe workplace and a good Health and Safety Representative (HSR). 

HACSU has seen how when women step up and fight, we can make changes in our personal lives, our working lives, and for women everywhere. It is vital to have HSRs representing other workers when work is unsafe, vulnerable workers are at risk, and accidents and injuries occur. HSRs, as part of WHS committees, represent the concerns of your working group. 

HACSU encourages our members to learn more about their right to health and safety in the workplace place — if you’re reading this, maybe it’s time to consider if you’d like to step up into as an HSR in your workplace and be a leader for change. 

As a union, and as part of the union movement, HACSU has made big wins in recent years: domestic violence leave, gender equity clauses, and including gendered violence in agreements. This is all against a backdrop of momentous changes happening and safe practices for women in the workplace being implemented. However, there is still work to be done to ensure workplaces are safer for women. The best way to achieve this is to have an elected HSR in every workplace!  

People of different genders experience different safety issues. Each workplace’s safety concerns are different. Across our state, societal effects on safety are different. However, there are some overarching themes that affect women. Some of the more common safety issues that more commonly affect women in our industries are:  

  • Gender inequality 

  • Sexual harassment  

  • Assaults  

  • Stress  

  • Injury (both physical and psychological) 

  • Exposure to hazardous substances during pregnancy  

  • Unsafe work for pregnant women  

HSRs have no legal obligations, but under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, they have many powers to raise workplace safety violations and concerns. HACSU knows that when we support HSRs in using these powers, we achieve safer workplaces.  

Our membership is highly feminised, and this reflects the fact that the industries we cover are highly female dominated.  

If your job is full of risks, workers are going to suffer. However, when workers unite, they can effective and safe changes in the workplace. Well-trained HSRs that understand their fellow workers and their specific workplace are vital to improving safety. 

Here’s how you can become a HSR and be an agent for change in your workplace.  

  1. 1) See if there's a vacancy for an HSR 
  2. Find out if you have a vacancy in your Designated Working Group (DWG) and find out what your DWG looks like. For example, some DWGs represent only one team or house, but others may be larger. 
  4. 2) If yes, hold an election 
  5. If there is a vacancy you can call an election — you can enlist the help of HACSU, organise a meeting, or often the simplest way is to hold the elections at an all-staff meeting for your DWG.  
  6. Your DWG (which the union may be involved in) run elections and appoint HSRs — not your employer. HSRs are elected by workers, for workers! 
  8. 3) Notify management of the new HSR 
  9. Once elected as HSR, document the election date and email management to notify them that an HSR has been elected.  
  11. 4) Get your initial HSR training 
  12. Check when the next Initial HSR 5-day training will occur at VTHC at 
  13. Under the OHS Act, you must give your employer 14 days’ notice before training. Your employer is obliged to ensure your time release, to pay for your choice of accredited provider and to ensure there is no financial disadvantage.  
  14. Annual HSR refresher training is available, and highly recommended.  

Remember that HACSU provides continued support for HSRs in their role; we want to work with members to create safer workplaces. Everybody deserves a safe workplace and to be free from harm. In addition to helping HSRs, HACSU conducts regular workplace and sector safety surveys and audits, that have made real change for our members.  

If you want to talk more about becoming an HSR, contact Sam Stewart at or on 0428 254 376.