What is a Work Group?
Weekly WHS Article 18th May 2023
A “work group” under WHS law usually consists of workers who perform similar types of work and experience similar situations and conditions within their workplace (Ref 1).
Businesses may have departments, units, sections, groups, or areas that exist at their site or across multiple sites which are necessary for the production and manufacturing of a product, or for a service to be delivered. These sub-divisions of the business exist to establish correct workflow so that output occurs. Any process line has multiple work divisions where something has to take place at each stage to move the product along to the next stages of manufacturing to where it becomes a finished product at the end. The number of sections where something has to be done of course depends on the complexity of the product or service being produced.
Work groups in a WHS context are groups of people within the business that are represented by one person and their deputy for the purpose of WHS consultation.
Every corporation, organization, entity, business, or sole trader must consult every one of their staff and sub-contractors, and any other business owners who may share premises or facilities, on WHS matters which may potentially affect people in the workplace.
It would be impossible in some businesses for a CEO to personally go around the workplace and talk to every person about WHS matters. It may be equally impractical for members of the leadership team to do the same. What if a WHS matter affected hundreds or even thousands of staff? That’s a lot of people to consult. Things could get complicated.
A solution to this is for the business to form what the WHS Act calls work groups. These are formed for the purpose of WHS consultation (Ref 1 and 2).
A work group formed for this purpose is an identified and established group of people within the business that are then represented by one person (or their deputy in their absence) on those WHS matters that need input from the workforce. There may be multiple production departments, units, sections, or groups which make up a work group for health and safety consultation. WHS work groups are different from production departments.
The CEO, or representatives of the CEO, speak to the Health and Safety Representatives of each of the work groups and obtain the information they need from the staff in those groups in that way. Section 70 of the WHS Act describes specific things that management might need to discuss with HSRs.
If your business is too big or spread over too large an area then it may benefit the business to establish work groups for management to be better able to consult its workforce on health and safety matters.
The formation of work groups may be initiated by management or at the behest of staff. Once agreed, the process to elect health and safety representatives for the work groups can begin (Ref 3).
Ref 1 SafeWork NSW: “Workgroups”
Ref 2 page 19 Code of Practice, Work Health & Safety Consultation, Cooperation & Coordination, Health and Safety Representatives Ref 3 page 5 Work Groups, Safe Work Australia, Worker Representation and Participation Guide 12 Dec 2018
18th May 2023
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