Consultation guide for employers

Health and safety consultation is your legal duty, but it doesn't need to be difficult. There are lots of different ways to consult depending on your workplace.


Consultation is essential

You must consult with employees and any health and safety representatives (HSRs) on health and safety matters that affect, or may affect, them. This is your obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act).

You must consult so far as is reasonably practicable. This means doing what a reasonable person in the same position would do.

A safe workplace is one where employees and employers can raise issues, talk about them, and solve problems together. When employees are involved in making decisions, it can boost their engagement and participation with health and safety initiatives. It can also build cooperation and trust between everyone in the workplace.

Consultation is important because it can improve:

  • employee buy-in through knowledge and ideas
  • decision-making
  • workplace relationships
  • health and safety
  • business performance

By involving employees in health and safety conversations, you get direct feedback on hazards, risks and solutions from people who do the work. This can help make your workplace safer.

When to consult

The OHS Act states that you must consult whenever you are:

  • identifying and assessing hazards and risks
  • making decisions about:
    • measures to control risks
    • facilities for employee welfare
    • certain procedures
  • determining membership of health and safety committees
  • proposing changes to the workplace, plant, substances or other things used at the workplace
  • proposing changes to the way work is done

There may also be matters listed in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) that need consultation, so make sure you’re familiar with any regulations relevant to your industry.

Who you must consult


You must, so far as is reasonably practicable, consult with employees who are (or may be) affected by any of the matters listed in the OHS Act.

Employees also include labour hire workers, independent contractors, and the employees of those contractors.


Your employees might have HSRs. HSRs help raise and resolve health and safety issues on behalf of the employees they represent. Consultation must involve any HSRs, either with or without employees' direct involvement.

If there are no HSRs, you must consult directly with employees.

How to consult

Consultation means giving employees the chance to shape health and safety decisions. Telling people about the decisions after they have been made isn’t consultation.

Consultation should be done in a way that is accessible and can be understood by everyone.

When you consult, you must do the following:

Agreed consultation procedures

If your workplace has an agreed consultation procedure, you must follow it.

Agreed procedures can be useful as they may:

  • clarify key responsibilities of people in the workplace
  • clearly state when consultation is needed and how it will happen
  • encourage more awareness of health and safety issues among employees

Agreed procedures for consultation should:

  • be consistent with the OHS Act
  • be developed through consultation between employers, HSRs and employees.
  • be in writing and made available to all employees
  • clearly address the role of HSRs, health and safety committees and anyone else involved in consultation
  • be available to all employees

So far as is reasonably practicable

Remember, you must consult so far as is reasonably practicable. This can look different depending on:

  • the size and structure of the workplace
  • the type of work
  • how urgent the situation is
  • work arrangements (for example, shift work or remote employees)
  • employee diversity, including:
    • cultural and linguistic diversity
    • generational diversity
    • gender diversity
    • LGBTQIA+ employees
    • employees with a disability

You're expected to take a sensible approach to consultation. For example, it might not be reasonably practicable to consult with employees on extended leave, but it would be appropriate to update them on any changes once they're back.

Ways to consult

Work meetings are a great place to consult. It's a good idea to prepare a meeting agenda beforehand and give employees and HSRs a chance to add to it. That way, everyone’s prepared to speak about certain issues and solutions.

Where possible, face-to-face meetings are best. If you're a larger employer, you may sometimes have to consult via email, phone or virtual meetings.

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