Consultation and worker representation
Engaging with workers
While PCBUs are responsible for making decisions regarding health and safety, they don’t always have a full understanding of the finer detail or subtleties of the work or working conditions. To help improve this understanding, it is important that PCBUs engage in consultation with their workers.
Consultation is a collaborative process between PCBUs and their workers. It involves sharing information about work health and safety and ensuring that views of workers are taken into account when making decisions about health and safety at the workplace.
Given the importance of consultation in contributing to work health and safety, the WHS Act prescribes a general duty to consult.
Consultation with workers
PCBUs must, so far as reasonably practicable, consult with workers who are likely to be directly affected by health and safety matters. This includes giving workers a reasonable opportunity to express their views or raise issues about work health and safety at the workplace.
If there is an agreed consultation procedure then the consultation must be in accordance with those procedures.
If a health and safety representative (HSR) represents workers, the consultation must involve the HSR.
When must a PCBU consult with workers?
A PCBU must consult with workers and take their views into account when:
- identifying hazards and assessing risks arising from work
- proposing changes that may affect the health and safety of workers
- whenever specifically required to do so under particular regulations
and when considering making decisions about:
- ways to eliminate or minimise risks
- the adequacy of facilities for workers’ welfare at work
- procedures for consulting with workers
- procedures for resolving health and safety issues
- procedures for monitoring the health of workers or workplace conditions
- how to provide health and safety information and training to workers.
The views of workers must be taken into account when consulting under these provisions but there is no requirement for agreement to be reached.
Workers who have been consulted under these provisions must be advised of the outcome in a timely manner. There is no particular way this advice must be given — for example, it could be given at a ‘toolbox’ meeting or posted as an intranet news item.
Worker representation and participation
Workers are entitled to:
- elect a health and safety representative (HSR) if they wish to be represented by one
- request the formation of a health and safety committee
- cease unsafe work in certain circumstances
- have health and safety issues at the workplace resolved through an agreed issue resolution procedure
- not be discriminated against for raising health and safety issues.
Health and safety representatives
A health and safety representative (HSR) is a person elected by a work group they are a member of to represent the health and safety interests of the group.
Any worker can ask the PCBU they are doing work for to facilitate the election of one or more HSRs for the workplace. There can be as many HSRs and deputy HSRs as needed after consultation, negotiation and agreement between workers and the PCBU.
Once determined, the PCBU must keep a current list of all HSRs and deputy HSRs for the workplace(s) and display a copy at the relevant workplace.
A three-year term of office under the Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WHS Act) applies to HSRs elected after the WHS Act comes into force.
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