Through consultation, business owners/operators, managers and supervisors can become more aware of work health and safety hazards or issues experienced by everyone at the workplace. Workers directly involved in the business operations can provide valuable information and insights, and suggest solutions for resolving them.
Our Consultation and representation at work (PDF 211kb) fact sheet provides some guidelines for both employers and workers about best practice consultation on work health and safety in the workplace, whether it be informal, or through an agreed arrangement (e.g. weekly toolbox meetings), or more formally through Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and Health and Safety Committees (HSCs).
The approved Code of Practice for Work Health and Safety Consultation, Co-operation and Co-ordination provides practical guidance to Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) on effective consultation with workers who are, or are likely to be, directly affected by a health and safety matter, as well as how to facilitate worker participation and representation.
The Worker Representation and Participation Guide (Safe Work Australia) provides further information for HSRs and HSCs, and also includes guidance about resolving health and safety issues.
For effective and genuine consultation to take place, PCBUs should:
- be familiar with work health and safety laws
- develop agreed procedures for consultation with all affected workers, including any HSRs for the relevant workers
- regularly review and update their consultation arrangements
- understand the roles and functions of HSRs and HSCs
- know how work groups are formed to enable the election of HSRs
- be aware of HSR training entitlements
- liaise with other PCBUs to determine responsibility for work health and safety issues
- plan and budget for work health and safety.
Consultation must involve all affected workers and their representatives, including HSRs, before any changes are made that may affect health and safety.
Speaking up about work health and safety issues is important, so don't be reluctant to raise safety issues you see or become aware of. Immediately report any potential hazards or unsafe work practices to your manager, supervisor or HSR.
The law prohibits discriminatory behaviour directed at anyone who raises work health and safety issues or carries out legitimate safety-related functions or activities.
Health and safety representatives
South Australia's work health and safety laws enable groups of workers (called work groups) to elect HSRs to represent them and act on their behalf.
Some of the benefits provided by HSRs include:
- a single point of contact, for workers when raising health and safety issues, and for PCBUs when consulting with workers
- improved efficiency, particularly where there is a large group of affected workers, reducing the need for individual consultation
- more effective representation, through their training, experience and regular involvement with health and safety matters.
Health and safety committees
The role of an HSC is to provide a forum for consulting on health and safety management across the entire workforce. While HSRs represent groups of workers, an HSC should focus on work health and safety issues affecting the organisation as a whole, rather than the concerns of individual workers.
The more specific functions of an HSC include:
- facilitating co-operation between PCBUs and workers
- helping to develop and review work health and safety policies, procedures and systems to ensure the PCBU is meeting their duty of care obligations
- dealing with any other health and safety matters, as agreed between the PCBU and committee members.