Occupational Health & Safety Consultation
The duty to consult:
- applies to all employers regardless of the number of employees they have or whether there is a request for an OHS Committee.
- is based on recognition that employee input and participation improves decision-making about health and safety matters.
The purpose of the duty to consult is to ensure there is meaningful and effective consultation about matters that may affect an employee's health, safety and welfare so there is reduced injury and disease.
In determining how to meet the duty to consult the employer should start by considering two questions:
- What decisions are made that may affect my employee's health, safety or welfare?
- What can I do to ensure consultation is meaningful and effective?
What Decisions may affect OHS
In considering what decisions may affect an employee's health safety and welfare; the employer must have regard to the OHS Act. It lists circumstances when consultation is required.
Employers should give further thought to additional circumstances where consultation could improve OHS outcomes. The employer should consider who makes decisions that affect OHS throughout the organisation and when those decisions are made. Adopting a systematic approach to health and safety and applying risk management principles will help identify when to consult and will assist the employer develop a plan to consult employees in the early phases of the decision-making process.
In considering what can be done to ensure consultation is meaningful and effective, the employer must have regard to the OHS Act. It defines what consultation must involve.
The OHS Act requires employers to adopt an OHS consultation arrangement to assist with meeting their duty to consult. The OHS Act provides three options:
An OHS Committee comprised of employer and employee representatives.
OHS Representatives elected by employees.
Other Agreed Arrangements between the employer and their employees.
The OHS Act requires an employer to consult with their employees about the consultation arrangements.
Under the legislation an OHS Committee or an OHS Representative represents a defined "workgroup" of employees.
Consideration will need to be given to the training necessary to enable the employer and their employees to participate in their OHS consultation arrangements in an effective way.
Effective consultation can result in:
- Improved management decisions through gathering a wider source of ideas about OHS.
- Greater employee commitment of OHS through a better understanding of OHS decisions and employee ownership of the outcome of the consultation.
- Greater openness, respect and trust between management and employees through developing an understanding of each other's points of view.
- Higher employee morale and job satisfaction through the employer demonstrating that employee views are valued and taken into account.
- Healthier working environments and increase productivity.
- Opportunities for learning through sharing of information, concepts and ideas.
- Reduced injury and disease with consequent savings to the employer, employees and the general community.