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WHS Consultation - Overview

What is Consultation?

Chapter 3 of the WHS Regulation 2017 is dedicated to how a business (Person Conduction an Business or Undertaking) manages health and safety in workplaces.

Along with this, Part 5 of the WHS Act 2011 is dedicated to “Consultation,” which describes how a business consults its people on health and safety matters in the workplace. A business must first get information from the people who might be affected by the matter before making decisions.​

In the English language “consultation” means: the action or process of formally consulting or discussing.


“To consult” means: to seek information or advice from (someone, especially an expert or professional)

Consultation in a WHS context is a two-way process between persons representing the business or undertaking (PCBU) and the members of the workforce where the business:

  • Talks to all persons who are or may be affected by a health and safety matter,

  • Listens to concerns and details of the matter

  • Seeks and shares views and information, and

  • Considers what workers say before decisions are made.

Discussions may need to be had with other businesses (such as when premises are shared) and sub-contractors, as well as staff. All persons (human and non-human) must be represented in any consultation efforts.

PCBU duty to manage risks


Per the WHS Act and WHS Regulation it is the PCBU that has the overall duty to manage risks in the workplace. A PCBU is a business entity. The real-world people that do the consulting are the directors of the business. They may need help to consult and will task their managers and supervisors to acquire information and feedback from staff.

PCBU duty to consult

A business must have a WHS management system to effect risk management actions so that hazards and risks can be eliminated, or if not able to be eliminated, be controlled.


Consultation is key to developing controls, policies, procedures, plans, and measures to run the business with respect to the health and safety of staff at the same time.  


A business can set up any systems that allow for consultation to take place in their business, but what management does, and how they solve issues, must be consistent with requirements of the WHS Act as described in Part 5 of the WHS Act.  

Management responsibilities


Directors and CEOs must exercise "due diligence" to ensure that the PCBU that they are in control of complies with all the requirements of the WHS Act and WHS Regulation (as well as all industry-specific legislation) and may be personally liable for a breach. 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.


There are many numbers of ways to establish consultation procedures. In the WHS Act the main emphasis is the formation of workgroups and having health and safety representatives to represent these groups of workers. In a small company it may be impractical to go to such lengths and simple regular meetings, toolbox talks, and direct communication between management and staff may be enough.


In large companies it may be necessary to form one or more health and safety committees and have the HSRs meet with management representatives periodically to discuss bigger ticket items, involving company policy, plans, or other measures on a larger scale. Health and Safety committees do not deal with “day to day” matters. Management must be present, on the ground, to enforce WHS rules and protocols and ensure staff are following them. This is the role of your supervisors and line managers.

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.

Consultation is a major part of WHS law.

Courtenell can help you with your workplace WHS consultation arrangements.

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