Designated workgroups (DWG)
Any workplace can establish a Designated Workgroup (DWG), the first step to ensuring there is proper representation for all staff on health and safety issues.
Creating a DWG is a right under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. It gives allows staff to voice their concerns and views within a proper legal framework. Setting one up is not mandatory, but it has to happen if it is requested. Most schools will have one DWG, but staff in multi-campus schools may consider it appropriate to have one for each site.
Members of the DWG are entitled to elect one of their members to be their health and safety representative (HSR). Nominations can be invited either at a staff meeting where all staff are entitled to be present‚ or by posting the nomination form on the notice board. If there is only one nomination‚ a ballot is not required and that person is deemed to be the HSR and the principal or manager can be informed.
The composition of the DWG is for negotiation between the employer and the employees but normally all staff would be part of the DWG‚ not just teaching staff.
Under the Act‚ the principle of representation through a DWG remains and in some respects is strengthened through greater flexibility‚ for example by including provision for deputy HSRs and for including employees of other employers (such as independent contractors) in the workgroup.
The provisions are contained in Part 7 Divisions 1-3 (1985 Section 29) of the Act.
For a copy of the HSR Recruitment Kit with FAQs on Designated Workgroups‚ email the Membership Services Unit or call (03) 9417 2822.
Adequate representation for all members of the DWG
One principle enshrined in the Act is ease of access for members of Designated Workgroups to their elected representatives. This may be a good time for your DWG to review its composition to decide whether you feel that it currently allows for all members to have easy access to their elected HSR.
If you have a relatively small number of DWG members working on a single site‚ you may feel very happy with current arrangements. If you have a very large DWG‚ operate from more than one site or have other issues about access to the HSR‚ you may want to consider whether additional HSRs or deputy HSRs would improve representation.
You should discuss proposals for changes through your existing consultative arrangements.