A health and safety representative (HSR) may issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) if they reasonably believe that a person is contravening or has contravened (breached) the work health and safety laws and it’s likely that they’ll keep doing it.
- excessive noise levels in the workplace
- an ongoing requirement to manually lift heavy objects
- regular exposure to hazardous chemicals
- unguarded machines
- lack of consultation on work health and safety matters.
The HSR may issue a PIN requiring the person to:
- fix the breach
- prevent a likely breach from occurring
- fix the things causing the breach/likely breach.
A PIN can’t be issued for a matter that a WorkSafe inspector has already addressed.
When a HSR can issue a PIN
A HSR can only issue a PIN if they have completed an approved HSR training course.
Before issuing a PIN, the HSR must consult the person they believe is breaching the work health and safety laws and should:
- provide information (in person or in writing) about fixing the alleged breach or activities causing the breach. At this point the HSR doesn’t have to specify the part (or ‘provision’) of the work health and safety laws the issue relates to, but they can if they want
- allow the person an opportunity to express their views, and take into account these views
- give them adequate time to fix the breach.
Even if the person doesn’t respond to the HSR, or they don’t agree, consultation can still be said to have occurred.
Who a PIN can be issued to
A PIN may be issued to anyone: a PCBU, a worker, manager, officer or others at the workplace.
The PIN must:
- be issued to the person responsible for the identified breach
- clearly identify this person.
- A worker finds that a valve from a steam line becomes displaced, allowing a jet of steam to escape. The worker refers the issue to their HSR who takes it up with the supervisor. The supervisor, after consulting with the HSR on how it can be fixed, settles the matter on the spot by calling in maintenance staff immediately
- However, if the leak is not fixed, and the HSR believes that the leaking pipe poses a risk to people in the workplace (thereby contravening the work health and safety laws), the HSR may issue a PIN to the PCBU and serve it to the supervisor. The supervisor must bring the PIN to the attention of the PCBU, who has an obligation to fix the breach. In this example, a PIN would state that the HSR believes there is a contravention of section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act
- Cleaning staff are working in an office building after hours, using the stairwell to move between floors. Due to an electrical problem, the lights have recently gone out in the stairwell causing poor visibility. Despite repeated requests from the cleaners’ HSR to the building manager, the problem has not been fixed. Therefore the HSR issues a PIN to the building manager. In this example, the HSR believes that the building manager has contravened section 20 of the Work Health and Safety Act.
Putting the PIN in writing
The PIN must be in writing.
A separate PIN must be written for each breach.
WorkSafe has created a template that you may use (see Resources below). If you create your own PIN, it must:
- identify the person you believe is breaching/has breached the work health and safety laws and is likely to continue to do so
- state the provision of the laws you believe is being/has been breached
- briefly outline how the provision is being/has been breached
- state the date the breach/likely breach must be fixed by. This must be at least 8 days after the PIN is issued.
The PIN may also:
- include directions for how to fix the breach, prevent a likely breach, and/or how to address the matters/activities that are causing the breach/likely breach
- refer to a code of practice and offer a choice of ways to fix the breach.
A HSR can make minor changes to the PIN:
- for clarification, such as simplifying language or removing jargon
- to correct errors or references
- to reflect changes of address or other circumstances.
Issuing the PIN
The HSR can issue the PIN by:
- delivering it personally to the person
- sending it by post/email/fax to the person’s usual or last known home/business address
- leaving it for the person at the person’s usual or last known home/business address, with a person who appears over 16 years old and who appears to work or live there
- leaving it for the person at the workplace the notice relates to, with a person who is/ appears to be a person with management or control of the workplace.
If the PIN is issued to a PCBU as an organisation, the HSR would physically give the PIN to the management representative they’ve been consulting with over the matter.
Will a mistake on a PIN make it invalid?
A PIN is valid if it sufficiently identifies the duty holder that the PIN is issued to, even if the correct name of the organisation or person has not been used; for example:
- the person’s name is misspelt
- the formal name of the organisation hasn’t been used.
A PIN is invalid if the mistake causes/is likely to cause substantial injustice; for example:
- the PIN states the wrong provision of the work health and safety laws that has been breached
- the PIN refers to a matter that isn’t related to the health and safety breach.
If a HSR becomes aware that they have issued an invalid PIN, they should cancel the PIN and issue a new one.
Cancelling the PIN
To cancel a PIN at any time, the HSR must write to the person who was issued the PIN.
A valid PIN doesn’t need to be cancelled once it has been complied with.
Displaying the PIN
The person issued with a PIN must display a copy of it:
- in a prominent place at or near the workplace (or area of the workplace) where work affected by the PIN is done
- during the period that the PIN is in force.
The person issued with the PIN must not intentionally remove, destroy or damage the PIN while it is in force.
Complying with the PIN
The person issued with the PIN must comply with it within the specific timeframe, unless they’ve asked a WorkSafe inspector to review it.
Getting a WorkSafe inspector to review a PIN
The person issued with a PIN — or if they are a worker, their PCBU — can ask for a WorkSafe inspector to review the PIN. They must make this request within 7 days of the PIN being issued.
An inspector will attend the workplace as soon as practicable after the request. The inspector can review a PIN even if its time period has expired.
The PIN is temporarily suspended until the inspector determines the matter.
The inspector will :
- seek information from the HSR who issued the PIN and the person it was issued to
- find out why a PIN was issued, whether the PIN was correctly issued and why it is being disputed.
After reviewed the PIN, the inspector must either:
- confirm the PIN, or
- confirm the PIN with changes, or
- cancel the PIN.
Confirming the PIN (with or without changes) is taken to be an improvement notice issued by the inspector. An improvement notice still requires a person to fix a breach, but it is issued directly from the inspector.
Once an inspector has reached a decision, they must then give a copy of their decision:
- to the person who asked for the PIN to be reviewed
- to the HSR who issued the PIN.
If the person issued with the PIN, the HSR who issued the PIN, an affected worker, another affected HSR or a PCBU don’t agree with the decision, they can ask WorkSafe to review it.