What is Consultation?
Consultation is a two-way process between the person conducting a businesses or undertaking (PCBU) and other WHS duty holders where you:
Talk to each other about health and safety matters
Listen to concerns and raise concerns
Seek and Share views and information, and
Consider what workers say before decisions are made
PCBU duty to manage risks
Per Clause 32 of the WHS Regulation 2017 it is the PCBU that has the overall duty to manage risks in the workplace. How a PCBU manages risks and hazards is achieved in part by consultation with its workforce.
PCBU duty to consult
In accordance with its overarching duty to eliminate hazards and risks in the workplace (or effect controls if not otherwise possible to eliminate) a PCBU must consult all members of the workforce whom may be affected by the risk or hazard and gather and consider each and everyone's views, knowledge, and experience, in order to make decisions about resolving the matter. (Ref Sections 46-47 of the WHS Act.)
Representatives for the PCBU will talk to other duty holders and workers whom may be affected by a WHS matter in order to obtain information to help resolve the matters. Officers of the PCBU must ensure this occurs and that there are systems in place to facilitate this process.
The broad definition of a ‘worker’ under the WHS Act means that PCBUs must consult with employees plus anyone else who carries out work for the business or undertaking including contractors and sub-contractors and their employees, on-hire workers, volunteers, and any other people who are working for the business and are directly affected by a health and safety matter.
In some businesses it may be beneficial to create workgroups for consultation and have workers represented by a health and safety representative who has been elected to represent the people in those workgroups.
Duty of Officers
Officers, such as company directors, have a duty to exercise "due diligence" to ensure that the business or undertaking complies with the WHS Act and Regulation and may be personally liable for a breach. (Ref Section 27 of the WHS Act.) This includes taking reasonable steps to ensure that the business or undertaking implements processes for complying with the duty to consult workers as well as consulting, co-operating and co-ordinating activities with other duty holders.
Duties of Workers
In addition to a worker's duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety at work and be mindful of the health and safety of their co-workers, customers, and visitors, they must comply with any reasonable instruction from supervisors and managers and co-operate with any reasonable health and safety policy or procedure which includes procedures for consultation on WHS matters at the workplace. Just as it is the PCBU's duty to consult so is it the duty of workers to be consulted and to provide information, feedback, and views that may contribute to the resolution of health and safety risks and hazards in the workplace.
Courtenell offers training in all aspects of WHS consultation as it applies to PCBUs, Officers, Managers, Supervisors, HSRs, and WHS committees.