A safe workplace is more easily achieved when ‘persons conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBUs) and workers communicate with each other about WHS issues, and work together to find solutions.
What is consultation under the model WHS Act?
Consultation is a two-way process between the PCBU and their workers where views and information on work health and safety are sought, shared and considered. Consultation with other duty holders is also required.
When and how should consultation take place?
The concept of consultation has not changed. Consultation is required for the following health and safety matters (section 49 of the model WHS Act):
- identifying hazards and assessing risks
- making decisions about ways to eliminate or minimise those risks
- making decisions about the adequacy of facilities
- when proposing changes that may affect health and safety
- when making any decisions about health and safety.
The three options for consultation are:
- health and safety representatives
- health and safety committees
- informal arrangements (eg tool box talks, WHS consultation may be a permanent agenda item at weekly meetings).
Consultation is about sharing WHS information with workers and providing them with an opportunity to respond and contribute to WHS issues that affect them.
As a PCBU, you must consult with all your workers, including contractors, sub-contractors, labour hire workers, apprentices, work experience staff and volunteers. You must also consult with other PCBUs, so far as is reasonably practicable, if your duty of care overlaps.
If a worker requests it, you must facilitate the election of a health and safety representative, who will act on behalf of the worker’s workgroup.
Consultation on WHS issues can take place:
- with the HSR
- with a health and safety committee (HSC)
- under any arrangement that you agree upon with your workers.
Even if there are no agreed arrangements, you have an obligation to consult with your workers and other PCBUs on WHS issues.