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WHS Practitioner/Advisor – Role of WHS Practitioner/Advisor

As the world of health and safety evolves and changes, so does the role and requirements of WHS practitioners/advisors.

Traditionally WHS practitioners/advisors have been known to have varying forms of formal qualifications in addition to a proven track record for delivering positive health and safety outcomes. In the diverse workforces of today the best advice and most innovative thinking often comes from those sourced from outside the traditional health and safety background. This includes those with a well-rounded and practical knowledge base who are willing to take a different approach to facilitate cultural change and to get workers to think, talk, live and breathe health and safety.

WHS practitioners/advisors should regularly review their WHS skill sets to ascertain if additional training can benefit and enhance their role. This can mean that you and your business, could benefit from a broader range of skills sets such as:

  • negotiation
  • effective listening and communication skills
  • issue resolution
  • influencing for desired outcomes
  • meeting and presentation skills.

These additional skills can assist in how you, in your health and safety roles, objectively assess the viewpoints of senior leaders, managers and workers and strategically market the importance and benefits of health and safety.

How am I accountable for workplace health and safety outcomes?

As a WHS practitioner/advisor, you understand the importance and benefits of working collaboratively with managers and workers to ensure that health and safety related policies and procedures are implemented and consistently followed across the organisation.

The level of accountability for a WHS practitioner/advisor varies and depends on their specific roles and functions. WHS practitioner/advisors are workers under the WHS Act and are accountable in the same way as any other worker. In most cases, local accountability, to assist the PCBU meet broader WHS obligations, often relates to the more operational aspects of health and safety.

This can include ongoing health and safety monitoring and maintenance, development and improvement of organisational health and safety management systems and will likely include, some, or all of the following tasks:

  • recording and reporting on WHS activities
  • investigating WHS incidents
  • reviewing and updating WHS policies and procedures
  • providing advice to managers and workers on WHS risk management
  • assisting workers with individual health concerns/issues
  • undertaking various assessments e.g. workstations, return to work arrangements
  • making recommendations for process improvements
  • working with health and safety committees
  • supporting HSRs and employee representatives.

Specific tasks will depend on your level, the type of industry you operate in, and the specific risk profile of the activities being undertaken by the workers.

Suggested approaches and initiatives for practitioners/advisors

Whilst it is important to understand and review your roles and functions, it is often the simple straight forward things that can assist in how the PCBU meets their WHS legislative obligations and how you, as a practitioner/advisor can contribute to a healthy and safe workplace.

The following suggestions are a starting point for some ways to promote and review safety performance.

  • Each month, (or at other intervals that fit into any programs) focus on the top 5 or 10 most dangerous hazards in the workplace.
  • Create a focal point for safety awareness and conduct a review of performance measures to track progress and identify the next top hazards, e.g. positive performance indicators, injury and claims data, notifications and rehabilitation/return to work data.
  • Identify the top hazards most likely to cause serious harm to improve workplace health and safety culture.
  • Devote time to raising awareness of, and critiquing performance against hazards specific to your business, for example: 
    • psychosocial
    • change management
    • body stressing and manual tasks
    • trips, slips and falls
    • driver fatigue
    • being hit by a moving object.

Track your progress throughout the year and then identify the next focal points for the following year based on your findings.

Page last updated: 07 Mar 2014