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Your Views Matter

Weekly WHS Article 7th December 2023

Workers at every workplace in Australia, irrespective of the nature and risk of the business, must be consulted as far as is reasonably practicable on Health and Safety matters that may affect them. This is a legal requirement, a duty of the PCBU under Section 47 of the Model WHS Act,

Officers and Senior Executives must ensure that the PCBU has proactive processes to ensure consultation takes place. To “consult” is “to seek information or advice from (someone, especially an expert or professional), have discussions with (someone), typically before undertaking a course of action”.

Section 48 of the WHS Act states:

48 Nature of consultation

(1) Consultation under this Division requires:

a) that relevant information about the matter is shared with workers, and

b) that workers be given a reasonable opportunity:

i. to express their views and to raise work health or safety issues in relation to the matter, and

ii. to contribute to the decision-making process relating to the matter, and

c) that the views of workers are taken into account by the person conducting the business or undertaking, and

d) that the workers consulted are advised of the outcome of the consultation in a timely manner.

It is recognised that a huge emphasis is placed in the law on considering the views of workers when it comes to tackling health and safety issues. The WHS Act places a duty on the business not to make decisions on the matters where workers are or are likely to be affected without first consulting.

A Health and Safety committee can be formed to tackle health and safety issues of the workplace. As per the Section 48 of the Act, a business can use the HSC as a means to consult with the workforce so that the “views of workers are taken into account”; and have workers who may be affected by the matter contribute to the decision-making process relating to the matter.

In fact, the functions of a health and safety committee are to:

a) to facilitate co-operation between the person conducting a business or undertaking and workers in instigating, developing, and carrying out measures designed to ensure the workers’ health and safety at work; and

b) to assist in developing standards, rules and procedures relating to health and safety that are to be followed or complied with at the workplace.

The health and safety committee may be involved in other functions specific to the business to facilitate consultation between the PCBU and the Workers and assist in developing WHS policies and plans and procedures, as long as this is agreed between the PCBU and the committee.

The valuable take away from this is, “Everybody’s views count.”

Workers are expected to contribute to discussions on Health and Safety matters and it is expected that management have these discussions before undertaking a course of action. This is simply what workplace consultation is…

7th December 2023

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