Get on your consultation soap box!
Posted by The Safety Nerd
So currently we have Committees, Reps, other agreed arrangements such as focus groups, working groups, steering committees, toolbox talks, team meetings – this all is basically because you need to discuss with the relevant people any health and safety matters.
Some people do it formally, others not so. It’s all scribbled down somewhere, just in case you need to prove it and everything is fine and dandy. Well weren’t we kidding ourselves in the calm before the storm!
Consultation has some of the more significant changes in the new WHS laws with people scratching their heads. We are just touching on the specific changes in consultation, not the role of the Health and Safety Reps (HSRs) which is a whole different ball game, but before we get into that detail, lets have a look at why we need to chin wag in the first place.
Back when you wore stone washed denim jackets and a boom box on your shoulder blowing out your ear drums some smarty pants discovered that consultation was a good idea and it was introduced into the OHS laws. They found out that drawing on workers knowledge and experience you make better decisions ‘ding, ding, ding….news flash’, and if workers were involved in these decisions they’d be more aware and committed which in turn would result in greater cooperation and trust between workers and management. We were so smart back then that some of these provisions are being kept in the new WHS laws, but there are some key differences to be aware of.
PCBUs not only have to consult with other duty holders and employees but workers that are likely to be affected by the business or undertaking. Doesn’t that open a can of worms! This must be done as far as reasonably practicable in particular ways and in particular times. Also if the workforce requests Health and Safety Reps then consultation must involve these Reps.
There’s another important point to factor in – consultation must be to workers who are, or likely to be directly affected by a WHS matter. This includes subbies who are workers and PCBUs in their own right, employees of subbies, labour hire, volunteers etc. So….think big.
Now to get to the point of how you consult, this is basically the same as previously except they have slipped in the requirement to notify workers consulted of the outcome of the deliberations in a timely manner, which doesn’t sound like a biggy but it does add to the degree of accountability for the PCBU.
So, you don’t need to consult all workers all the time, but you do need to consult with those that are or could be affected by WHS matters, or their elected HSRs if they have elected one.
From boom boxes to soap boxes, 30 years later consultation is thriving. Shame the big hair didn’t.
The Safety Nerd x