The harmonised Work Health and Safety legislation imposes several obligations among duty holders to consult, under reasonably practicable circumstances, with their workers and other duty holders regarding the management and identification of risks when it comes to safety and health inside the workplace.
What Does This Mean?
This means that all duty holders have to coordinate and consult their activities with their other colleagues who also have safety and work obligations. Aside from that, consultation with workers who will most likely be affected by the said issues should also be done.
There are actually two reasons why the legislation imposes the need for consultation. One, the more number of individuals are looking at a certain matter, the more likely that control measures will be implemented and risks will be pointed out. Second, the insight, experience and skills of different duty holders and workers are regarded as valuable factors which should be considered when developing solutions.
Many of the safety regulations imposed all over Australia include the consideration of whether consultation was conducted throughout the whole process of investigation. For instance, following a specific incident, or in making required inspections, questions should be asked from the duty holders regarding the way they have consulted with their employees and whether they have utilised proper consultation mechanisms.
An appointed inspector will generally ask to look at evidence from the consultation process, which includes the consultation procedures and policies which were used. They are also authorised to ask for minutes coming from safety and health committee meetings, in order to make sure that meaningful consultation has indeed occurred. The failure to come up with such proof may lead the inspector to believe that there has been a breach in duty. This will in turn potentially expose the company to prosecution, regardless of whether an incident has happened. Moreover, it can also place the organisation’s officers liable for failure to perform diligence in the taking of proper steps in order to make sure that the firm has complied with the proper safety and health regulations.
When Should Consultation Be Done?
Consultation must be done by duty holders with workers and other duty holders under the following circumstances:
When assessing risks to safety and health which arise from work related issues
When identifying dangers inside the workplace
When coming up with decisions regarding minimising or eliminating risks
When making decisions regarding the facilities which promote the welfare of workers
When suggesting changes which can indirectly or directly affect the safety and health of employees
When making changes about the consultation process and regulations
The most important thing to remember for duty holders is that consultation should be proactive. This means that it must happen before the commencement of work, or when the work is underway, the moment new risks are detected. This obligation to consult must be triggered whenever a new worker begins or when new substances, equipment, plant, or processes are introduced into the working environment.