The VFFA received an email from a member, suggesting that the HSR program for volunteers has not been properly addressed by the NSW RFS.

The RFS has published the following key HSR election dates:

  • 12 September to 8 October 2018 – Notice of Election sent to members and HSR nominations open
  • 5 November 2018 – Ballot papers posted to members
  • 10 December 2018 – Voting closes at 12:00pm
  • 31 January 2019 – Results of HSR elections announced by this date
  • 1 March 2019 – Elected HSRs commence their three year term

The VFFA is concerned that the period (12 September to 8 October 2018) is insufficient time to properly advertise this important program to all volunteers across the state.

The RFS is seeking to fill 47 HRS positions for NSW.

The VFFA is concerned that 47 HSR’s across the state is simply a compliance exercise designed to appease the legislation and SafeWork NSW is allowing it.

FRNSW have over 100 HSR’s for their 22,000 membership.

The RFS claims to have over 70,000 volunteers. Even at a more realistic figure of 20,000 volunteers fighting fires, the number of HSR’s should be greater than 47.

The RFS claims to have 47 work places (Districts). The VFFA does not feel that 47 work places is an accurate representation of actual work places within this diverse organisation.

Time is Running Out

Do you want to help make your fire fighting workplace a safer, healthier and cohesive workplace?

Do you want to make a real change in your workplace in ensuring compliance to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act)?

Become a Health and Safety Representative (HSR) and help make your workplace a safer and healthier place to be.

If there is more than one nomination for one position an election needs to take place.

Below is a link to SafeWork NSW on the process for the nomination and election is required for a HSR.

SafeWork NSW

Information Published by the RFS

Click the pdf icons (below) to view the documentation.

1. Health and Safety Fact Sheet

This fact sheet provides details for members about the Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) election process. The NSW RFS, in accordance with Work Health and Safety legislation, is assisting all 47 workgroups with the process of HSR elections. NSW RFS workgroups include 45 geographically bound districts, Headquarters, and Glendenning (incorporating Operational Mitigation Services, and Planning and Environment Services).

2. NSW Rural Fire Service, Election of 47 Health and Safety Representatives – Election Notice

Completed Nomination Forms must be received by the Returning Officer, NSW Electoral Commission by no later than 12.00 noon, Monday 8 October 2018.

3. NSW Rural Fire Service, 2018 Election of 47 Health and Safety Representatives – Candidate Nomination Form

A completed nomination form must be received by the Returning Officer, NSW Electoral Commission, not later than, 12.00noon, Monday 8 October 2018.

Training for HSRs

Approved work health and safety training providers help HSRs to understand and fulfil their role and functions.

HSRs are entitled to attend an approved five-day training course in work health and safety and a one-day refresher course each year during their term of office.

Click on the button (below) to read a SafeWork NSW fact on Conditions for approved training providers delivering health and safety representatives training.

SafeWork NSW

Powers of an HSR.

You as an HSR have some serious functions to perform in representing the workers in the workplace and the WHS Act legislation to give the HSR power to ensure compliance in the workplace. Click on the button (below) for more information.

SafeWork NSW

Volunteers have been overlooked

Here is some evidence that supports the claims made by the VFFA that volunteers have been overlooked by the RFS in this matter.

1. RFS staff were notified by their representative body on the 11 January 2018. Click on the image (below) to view the pdf document.

2. The My RFS web site (designed to assist volunteers and staff) advertised this program as late as September 2018. Click the image to view a lager image size.

3. A search of the RFSA web site (search term was HSR) revealed nothing.


Feel free to make a comment or provide feedback on this topic.

Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) – Volunteers Overlooked
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One thought on “Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) – Volunteers Overlooked

  • October 31, 2018 at 9:33 am

    The HSR elections are a flawed process as it is up to the PCBU to consult on the number of workgroups which has not happened. It would seem that the PSA has looked at the staff areas (not including the new training location at Dubbo) meeting its requirements and the RFSA has just gone along with this recommendation and not considering the volunteer workgroups.

    51 Determination of work groups
    (1) If a request is made under section 50, the person conducting the business or undertaking must facilitate the determination of one or more work groups of workers.
    (2) The purpose of determining a work group is to facilitate the representation of workers in the work group by one or more health and safety representatives.
    (3) A work group may be determined for workers at one or more workplaces.

    This step was covered by the consultation committee of RFSA and PSA. It would seem that the determination of 47 HSRs to be that of work areas (Districts, HQ, Mitigation services) not work groups. It would also seem they closed their eyes in relation to ‘one or more HSRs per workgroup’ (2) also.

    The WHS Regulation sets out the conditions that must place in negotiations of workgroups.
    17 Matters to be taken into account in negotiations
    For the purposes of sections 52 (6) and 56 (4) of the Act, negotiations for and determination of work groups and variation of agreements concerning work groups must take into account all relevant matters, including the following:
    (a) the number of workers,
    (b) the views of workers in relation to the determination and variation of work groups,
    (c) the nature of each type of work carried out by the workers,
    (d) the number and grouping of workers who carry out the same or similar types of work,
    (e) the areas or places where each type of work is carried out,
    (f) the extent to which any worker must move from place to place while at work,
    (g) the diversity of workers and their work,
    (h) the nature of any hazards at the workplace or workplaces,
    (i) the nature of any risks to health and safety at the workplace or workplaces,
    (j) the nature of the engagement of each worker, for example as an employee or as a contractor,
    (k) the pattern of work carried out by workers, for example whether the work is full-time, part-time, casual or short-term,
    (l) the times at which work is carried out,
    (m) any arrangements at the workplace or workplaces relating to overtime or shift work.

    The Act states
    52 Negotiations for agreement for work group
    (1) A work group is to be determined by negotiation and agreement between:
    (a) the person conducting the business or undertaking, and
    (b) the workers who will form the work group or their representatives.

    This too has not happened. Work groups are areas of work that have different Health & Safety requirements such as Air Base operators, Fire Investigators, RFS staff, RAFT Teams, Aviation, contractors, etc.

    52 (3) The purpose of the negotiations is to determine:
    (a) the number and composition of work groups to be represented by health and safety representatives, and
    (b) the number of health and safety representatives and deputy health and safety representatives (if any) to be elected, and
    (c) the workplace or workplaces to which the work groups will apply, and
    (d) the businesses or undertakings to which the work groups will apply.

    Even though the current process is not in compliance, it is a step in the correct direction and section 52 (4) The parties to an agreement concerning the determination of a work group or groups may, at any time, negotiate a variation of the agreement.

    22 Agreed procedure—minimum requirements
    (1) This clause sets out minimum requirements for an agreed procedure for issue resolution at a workplace.
    (2) The agreed procedure for issue resolution at a workplace must include the steps set out in clause 23.
    (3) A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure that the agreed procedure for issue resolution at the workplace:
    (a) complies with subclause (2), and
    (b) is set out in writing, and
    (c) is communicated to all workers to whom the agreed procedure applies.

    As the RFS does have the WHS issue resolution document it has not been agreed upon by the workgroups or the workers. Therefore the default clause of 23 sets the rule that the HSRs will work to.

    I see that once the HSRs are in place an application for additional HSRs should take place.

    The FBEU took FRNSW to the Industrial Relations Commission stating the proposed number of HSRs by the FRNSW were insufficient and successfully increased the number to 137.

    Safework NSW also has a high number of HSRs per employee with ratio of 150:1

    So in my district there will be 1 HSR for 1100 volunteers. This really in not sufficient.

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