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Regulatory guide - Entry to consult and advise workers

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

We publish this regulatory guide to assist the organisations and entities we regulate.


Part 7 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), in conjunction with part 2.4 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011 (WHS Regulations), provides for WHS entry permit holders to enter workplaces in certain circumstances.

1. Preconditions

1.1 Consulting with, or providing advice to, relevant workers

A WHS entry permit holder may enter a workplace under section 121 of the WHS Act to consult on work health and safety matters with, and provide advice on those matters to, one or more relevant workers who wish to participate in the discussions with the WHS entry permit holder.

The relevant type of worker must work at the workplace in question. In addition, the worker must have a specified relationship with the union that the WHS entry permit holder represents. In particular, the worker must be a worker:

  • who is a member, or eligible to be a member, of the union, and
  • whose industrial interests the union is entitled to represent.[1]

1.2 Notice of entry

A 'person conducting a business or undertaking' (PCBU) in relation to which the WHS entry permit holder proposes to exercise a right of entry is referred to as a ‘relevant person conducting a business or undertaking’ (relevant PCBU).

A WHS entry permit holder must give prior notice to the relevant PCBU before entering a workplace under section 121. The notice must be given during the usual working hours at that workplace. It must be given at least 24 hours before the entry, but not more than 14 days before.[2]

The notice of entry must be in writing and must include:

  • the full name of the WHS entry permit holder
  • the name of the union that the WHS entry permit holder represents
  • the section of the Act under which the WHS entry permit holder is proposing to enter the workplace (section 121)
  • the name and address of the workplace proposed to be entered
  • the date of proposed entry
  • a declaration stating:
    • that the union is entitled to represent the industrial interests of a worker who carries out work at the workplace proposed to be entered and is a member, or eligible to be a member, of that union, and
    • the provision in the union’s rules that entitles the union to represent the industrial interests of that worker.[3]

The declaration within the notice of entry goes towards establishing that there are relevant workers at the workplace. However, the relevant PCBU is not entitled to know the identity of individuals who are relevant workers who wish to participate in the discussions with the WHS entry permit holder. This is because a WHS entry permit holder is not required to disclose the name of any worker at the workplace to the relevant PCBU, although a WHS entry permit holder may do so if the worker in question consents.[4]

2. Workplace entry

2.1 Time and physical extent

Actual entry to a workplace by a WHS entry permit holder pursuant to a right of entry may occur only during the usual working hours at that workplace.[5] The right of entry does not necessarily extend to the entire workplace. Rather, the right of entry may be exercised only in relation to:

  • the area of the workplace where the relevant workers work, or
  • any other work area that directly affects the health or safety of those workers.[6]

A WHS entry permit holder is expressly prohibited from entering any part of a workplace that is used only for residential purposes.[7]

2.2 Rights that may be exercised

In accordance with the purpose of entry under section 121, a WHS entry permit holder who has entered a workplace under the section may:

  • consult on work health and safety matters with one or more relevant workers who wish to participate in the discussions, and/or
  • provide advice on work health and safety matters to one or more relevant workers who wish to participate in the discussions.

The WHS entry permit holder also has a general right that can be exercised in relation to any person after entering the workplace, not just a relevant worker. The right is limited to warning a person about a risk that the WHS entry permit holder reasonably believes to be a serious risk to the person’s health or safety emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to a hazard.[8]

The ‘reasonably believes’ threshold indicates that there must exist facts which are sufficient to induce a belief in a reasonable person.[9]


References

[1] See the definitions of ‘relevant union’ and ‘relevant worker’ in section 116.

[2] Section 122.

[3] Section 122(2) and regulations 27 and 30.

[4] Section 130.

[5] Section 126.

[6] Section 127.

[7] Section 129.

[8] Section 121(2).

[9] George v Rockett [1990] HCA 26; (1990) 170 CLR 104 at 112-113.

Page last reviewed: 08 March 2020
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Comcare
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 26 Nov 2020

https://www.comcare.gov.au/scheme-legislation/whs-act/regulatory-guides/entry-to-consult-and-advise-workers