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. 

Consultation checklist

When you have established ways to consult on health and safety that suit your workplace, you should monitor and review these procedures in consultation with workers and health and safety representatives to ensure consultation meets the requirements under the WHS Act and WHS Regulations. The code of practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination includes the following checklist of things to consider when reviewing consultation arrangements.

Consultation checklist
Consultation compliance Yes/No
Do I have one or more consultation arrangements in place after consultation with my workers?  
Do the consultation arrangements include workers other than my employees such as contractors or labour hire workers who are part of my workforce?  
Do I use my consultation mechanism when I:  
- identify hazards and assess risks?  
- make decisions about welfare facilities?  
 - propose changes to the work, including purchasing new or used plant or new substances or materials?  
- develop and review safety policies and procedures?  
When I consult with my workers on these issues do I:  
- inform them of what I intend to do (e.g. purchase a new piece of equipment)?  
- share relevant information about the issue with them?  
- give them a reasonable opportunity to respond and contribute to decision making?  
- discuss any of their safety concerns?  
- take into account the views they express?  
- advise them of my decision and the reasons for it?  
If workers are represented by a health and safety representative, do I:  
- include the representative in all health and safety consultations?  
- make myself available for the representative to raise and discuss health and safety matters with me?  
Do I consult other duty holders who share responsibility for a health and safety matter with me?  
Do I identify other duty holders early before commencing work?  
Have I established open communication and consultation methods with other duty holders about the work and related health and safety risks?  
Have I confirmed with other duty holders that our joint duties are met?  

 

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.

HSR's are elected for a three-year term of office under the Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WHS Act). Further information on conducting an election is available on the Health and safety representative pages. 

Code of practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination

For further information on consultation refer to the Code of practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination

Code of practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination

Further information

Animations

  • WHS Animations
  • Consultation and representation
  • Health and safety representatives
  • Introduction to the Work Health and Safety Act 2020
  • What is a PCBU?
  • What is ‘reasonably practicable’ 

Poster

How to consult with workers - Infographic -Safe Work Australia : This infographic outlines some of the ways you might consult with workers and their representatives in your workplace.    

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