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Health and safety consultation in Victoria

Consultation should not be seen as just a legal requirement, but as an essential part of managing health and safety at work. Effective consultation can lead to more informed decisions that take into account a wide range of ideas about health and safety issues in the workplace and how to fix them. It can also lead to more openness, respect, trust and a stronger commitment to decisions because everyone’s involved in reaching them.

What is my obligation under OH&S law?

Under OH&S law employers must consult with employees and independent contractors on matters that will directly affect their health, safety or welfare. This includes when:

  • identifying or assessing hazards or risks and making decisions on how to control risks
  • making decisions about the adequacy of facilities (such as amenities, toilets or first aid)
  • making decisions about monitoring employees’ health and workplace conditions
  • making decisions about procedures to resolve health and safety issues, consult with employees and to provide information and training
  • proposing changes that may affect employees’ health and safety, such as changes to the workplace, plant, substances or other things used in the workplace and changes to the work performed.

Employers must consult on these matters so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes consulting with independent contractors and their employees in relation to matters over which the principal employer has or should have control.

What does consultation involve?

To comply with your obligations you must promote meaningful consultation. This includes:

  • sharing information about matters that are relevant to workers’ health and safety – e.g. site safety matters such as power lines, access problems, housekeeping
  • giving workers a reasonable opportunity to express their views about how to address the particular safety matters
  • considering these views when deciding how to address the particular safety matters.

Where workers are represented by health and safety representatives (HSRs), employers must also involve the HSRs in consultation.

After taking into account a workers’ view or opinion, you do not necessarily have to agree with it.

What is important is that you give workers the opportunity to be heard and take their views and opinions into account before making decisions about health and safety, and controlling risk so far as is reasonably practicable.

How to consult

Employees and contractors can be consulted in a variety of ways, including on site, over the phone, fax or email, or via site induction, toolbox meetings or by regular face-to-face meetings. One or a mix of the arrangements may be appropriate, depending on the type of work carried out and the site.

Recording your consultation activities

Although consultation does not have to be documented, you may need to convince an inspector that you have done this, so we recommend that you make a note or record of consultation activities. This can be as simple as a diary entry.

To find out more, contact HIA's Building Services team.

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