Under the NSW Work Health and Safety Act 2011
councillors are not officers of the organisation and do not carry any of the statutory duties imposed on officers. However, they do have a duty under other provisions of the Act (section 29). This requires them to take reasonable care of their own health and safety as well as take reasonable care to ensure any of their acts or omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of others at a council workplace.
Consequently, councillors do need to understand workplace requirements in relation to Work, Health and Safety (WHS) matters. Many councils already have a learning and development program for their councillors. The NSW Government is introducing legislative provisions which require all councils to have a development program for councillors which is to include:
An induction program for newly elected and returning councillors and a specialist supplementary program for the mayor
An ongoing professional development program for the mayor and each councillor
Consultation with councillors to consider their specific needs in tailoring a program.
The councillor development program is the place to incorporate information and learning resources about WHS. It is also relevant to consider making some of the health and wellbeing activities available to councillors via a portal on the council’s Intranet site. Many councils already have such a portal and use it to make resources accessible to elected representatives.
In any consultation with councillors about their specific needs they should be made aware of some of the health and wellbeing resources that are available.