Consultation: Safety basics

Consultation about health and safety doesn’t need to be difficult. As an employer, you can do it in different ways, depending on your workplace.


Why consult?

Involving your employees in health and safety issues can result in a safer workplace, and you should encourage it. You get input on hazards, risks and solutions from people who understand and do the work. Being involved in making decisions can give people a stronger commitment to implementing them. Communicating on health and safety can also build co-operation and trust between employers and employees.

  • when identifying or assessing hazards or risks
  • when making decisions on how to control risks
  • when making decisions about employee welfare facilities such as dining facilities, change rooms, toilets or first aid
  • when deciding on procedures to
    • resolve health and safety issues
    • consult with employees on health and safety
    • monitor workers' health and workplace conditions, or
    • provide information and training
  • when deciding the membership of any health and safety committee in the workplace
  • when proposing changes that may affect workers' health or safety (such as changes to the workplace, plant, substances or other things used in the workplace, the work performed at the workplace)
  • when doing anything else prescribed by the OHS regulations

Who to consult

You must consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with employees who are, or are likely to be, directly affected by any of the health and safety matters listed above.

If there is a health and safety representative (HSR), you must involve them in consultation.

How to consult

Consultation means giving employees the chance to shape health and safety decisions and actions taken by their employer. Telling people about them afterwards isn’t consultation.

You and your employees may have agreed procedures for consultation in your workplace. If you do, you must follow these.

However you consult, it must include the following.

Share information

Your employees (and HSRs where you have them), must be given information in relation to health and safety matters that could affect them. Give them enough time to consider, discuss and then give their feedback.

Unless it is not reasonably practicable, you must provide this information to HSRs a reasonable time before it is provided to employees.

Information should be in a form that employees and HSRs can easily understand. They may need information such as technical guidance about workplace hazards and risks (plant, equipment and substances), and information about how work is organised (systems, data reports, procedures and guidance material). Don’t withhold information just because it is technical or may be difficult to understand – your employees should be given time to process and seek advice on any information they have been provided.

Have a way to consult with employees from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Give employees the chance to express views

Give employees, and HSRs where you have them, the opportunity to express their views about health and safety matters. Encourage them to ask questions, raise concerns, propose options and make recommendations. They should be part of the problem-solving process.

Face-to-face meetings are often best, but they are not always possible. You may need a teleconference – for example, if the OHS Manager is in Melbourne and the manager and members of an affected designated work group (DWG) are at a regional site.

If there are HSRs, you must meet with them on the matter. You may need more than 1 meeting.

Take their views into account

Before a final decision is made, respond to employees’ and HSRs’ concerns and questions. Tell them what options were considered, and explain the final decision or action, and why it was taken.

Other ways to consult

There are other appropriate ways to consult with employees about health and safety. You can use regular face-to-face discussions or meetings such as tool box talks, DWG meetings, production meetings or team meetings.

If your workplace is small and there are no HSRs, meetings or face-to-face discussions may be the best way to consult.

A mix of arrangements may be appropriate, depending on the type of workplace.

Health and safety representatives (HSRs)

If there is a DWG with elected HSRs, the HSRs must always be involved in any consultation that affects, or is likely to affect, the health and safety of members of the DWG.

Health and safety committees (HSCs)

An HSC is a good way to deal with broad health and safety issues that affect all employees in a workplace. It brings together HSRs, employees and employer representatives. HSCs can improve and spread health and safety knowledge through discussions, the development of policies and procedures, and the distribution of meeting minutes and reports.

If an HSR requests that an HSC be established, the employer must establish it within 3 months.

At least half of the members of an HSC must be employees, and so far as practicable, HSRs or Deputy HSRs.

More about consultation