Are You Aware of Your Obligations to Consult under the New Work Health and Safety Legislation?
Consultation is an ongoing process and it must occur when identifying hazards and their risks and making decisions on how to control the risks. Under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation; Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) and their workers have the flexibility to negotiate and agree on and establish any or all of the consultation arrangements outlined in the WHS Act.
These mechanisms for consultation are:
- Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs)
- Health and Safety Committees (HSCs)
- Other agreed arrangements
Some workplaces may need a mix of consultation arrangements to meet different workplace situations.
Health and safety representatives
The new WHS Act introduces Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs). An HSR is a worker who has been elected by a work group (of which they are a member) to represent them on health and safety issues. The role of an HSR is to facilitate the flow of information regarding health and safety between the PCBUs and the workers in a work group. They represent workers on health and safety matters through ongoing consultation and cooperation between workers of a work group and the PCBU.
The powers and functions of a HSR are to:
- Represent workers in their work group on WHS issues
- Monitor the health and safety actions taken by the PCBU
- Investigate health and safety complaints from workers in their work group
- Look into anything that might be a risk to the health and safety of the workers they represent
If a HSR has completed approved HSR training, they can exercise additional powers to:
- Direct unsafe work to stop when they have a reasonable concern that carrying out the work would expose a worker to serious risk
- Issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) when they reasonably believe there is a contravention of the Act. A PIN is a notice issued to a person requiring them to address a health and safety concern in the workplace.
HSRs provide benefits to workers and PCBUs by fostering consultation. From 1 January 2012, if a worker requests an election for an HSR, the PCBU must facilitate the determination of a work group(s).
Health and Safety Committees
A Health and Safety Committee (HSC) is a group including workers, HSRs (if they agree) and representatives of the PCBUs that facilitates cooperation between the PCBU and workers to provide a safe place of work. At least half of the members of the committee must be workers who are not nominated by the PCBU.
A health and safety committee (HSC) facilitates cooperation between a PCBU and workers in developing and carrying out measures to ensure health and safety at work. The role of a committee includes developing health and safety standards, rules and procedures for the workplace and other functions as prescribed by the regulations or agreed between the PCBU and the committee.
In general, committees must be established if requested by at least five workers or any HSR at the workplace. An HSC must meet at least every three months and at any other reasonable time when requested by at least half of the members of the committee.
A PCBU can also establish an HSC at their own initiative.
Other Agreed Arrangements
Other agreed arrangements are flexible alternatives for establishing agreed consultation arrangements that meet business needs and improve decision making, especially where there are no health and safety representatives or health and safety committees. Some workplaces may need a mix of HSRs, HSCs and/or other agreed consultation tailored to suit the workers and work environment.
It may be more effective and meaningful to have an alternative arrangement for consultation if, for example, workers frequently travel or the business is small.
Other agreed arrangements for consultation on health and safety matters could be through:
- regular scheduled meetings
- team meetings (where health and safety is always an agenda item)
- one-off meetings
- tool box talks
- face to face discussions
- briefing session
Though other agreed arrangements do not need to be in a formal process, they must be planned and developed in consultation with workers.
The 'Work Health and Safety Act' comes into effect January 1 2012.
Business Savvy Risk Management can assist you in developing or reviewing your current OHS documentation and provide the necessary resources to ensure conformance.
Contact us for more information and find out how Business Savvy can help your business:
Phone: (02) 9555 1708
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