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What is a Health and Safety Representative (HSR) and do I need one?

What is a HSR? Do I need one as a small builder?

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Jon Benjamin
Construction Lead
May 31, 2022 - 04:26 AMMax 5min read
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Sometimes the systems surrounding mandated elements of onsite safety can feel like a box ticking exercise, rather than an opportunity. There’s plenty of people on site and each person has a role to play in ensuring the efficiency and safety of the project - a key person is your onsite Health and Safety Representative (HSR).

We’d like to think that BuildPass also has a role to play in supporting safe, well run sites - in this instance, supporting you in easily assigning an HSR and more importantly, empowering them to have open conversations about all elements of onsite safety.

Safety along with efficiency are the top two elements of a humming construction site.

What is a Health and Safety Representative (HSR)?

Have you considered what role a Health and Safety Representative plays on site, beyond the title? Let’s get into it. A Health and Safety Representative, according to WorkSafe, is an onsite representative of all employees - they are the voice of all employees in health and safety conversations with employers.

Ideally, this exchange of information includes conversations about risks to health and safety and a sharing of ideas around how to help mitigate the risks. Having these conversations encourages awareness of onsite safety and importantly, encourages an open dialogue about what is happening on site - which we think ultimately, leads to safer sites.

The HSR role is voluntary, and employees are responsible for assigning a site HSR - this process is usually done through a vote with all workers present - but importantly, this is just the beginning of the process.

Do I need a Health and Safety Representative onsite? Why are they important?

WorkSafe believe the role of HSRs should be encouraged, supported and protected, but it's not mandatory.

In addition to this, we think that to run the safest and most efficient of sites, simply assigning an HSR is not enough. To really benefit from an HSR day-to-day, they should be looked at not as the “safety police” - which can often be the case - but as a resource for all onsite workers to rely on.

An HSR can monitor worker fatigue and ensure that people are not over working. Instead of relying on their direct supervisor, workers can use an HSR to have a conversion about any concerns they may have - without the risk of judgement from their superiors.

Health and safety as an umbrella term is by nature extremely broad. When considering the role of an HSR onsite, consider broadening what you think about when you hear “health and safety” beyond the common “physical” dangers of construction.

Mental health, for example, is an onsite safety risk that could be addressed by an HSR - but understandably, workers won’t go to their HSR if they don’t respect them. Building this respect and encouraging HSRs to form onsite relationships with all workers to improve safety will encourage open communication.

And open communication naturally leads to safer sites.

But I am only a small builder - do I need an HSR?

Naturally, small builders may have less workers onsite, and so it may seem less important to assign an HSR.

But no matter the size of your site, it is beneficial for workers to have a dedicated person they can talk to about any health and safety concerns - even if, as is the case on most smaller sites, one person wears many hats and so that may mean that the site manager is also the HSR.

How do I assign HSRs in BuildPass?

The BuildPass app makes it easy for you to assign and manage HSRs on your site. The info tab provides the contact details for your site’s HSR so once they are allocated, they are easily identifiable by everyone on site - it’s so easy that anyone with the app can easily call the HSR with the click of a button.

To HSR or not to HSR?

While there isn't a mandated requirement here, the opportunity for HSRs and the employees they work with to genuinely improve the health and safety of all of the employees onsite is real.

We think the best way to do this is through developing a culture of respect for HSRs and encouraging open lines of communication to ensure that HSRs are seen as an onsite asset, rather than the “safety police”. To support this, we’ve also taken the niggly admin out of assigning and managing HSR contacts - helping you and your team focus on site safety and ultimately, getting the job done.