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Changes to workplace health and safety consultation processes

Submitted on Thursday, 8th November 2018

It’s well known that achieving a great safety culture at work is heavily reliant on effective employee communication, consultation and involvement in workplace safety matters.

The Victorian Government recognised this in a recent review of Worksafe Victoria’s approaches to consultation and made an important legislative amendment in September this year. The legal change enhances the requirements for employers to consult with health and safety representatives (HSRs) and employees in the workplace regarding health and safety.

Section 36 of the OHS Act, 2004 has been repealed and the wording from that section has been included under Section 35(3) & (4) of the amended OHS Act, 2004. It makes it an offence for an employer not to:

  • firstly, share information about any OHS matter with HSRs and employees;
  • then provide a reasonable opportunity to express their views;
  • and then take those views into account.

The penalties for the revised Section 35 offences remain the same. i.e. 900 penalty units or up to $145,071.

In addition to these requirements, if employees are represented by a HSR, the consultations must include the HSR with or without the involvement of the employees directly. The employer can rely on the HSR’s to relay the information to employees, however this does not result in the HSR becoming legally responsible for this. The duty to consult on safety matters still remains with the employer.

Ways employers can demonstrate compliance

Consultation with employers and HSRs can be achieved and demonstrated in a number of ways. This may be in the form of any or all of the following:

  • an agreed consultation procedure and its implementation records,
  • fixed agendas for meetings that include safety as a regular topic for conversation,
  • minutes from safety committee meetings occurring at least quarterly,
  • reasonable time and resources provided so HSR’s can consult with their designated workgroup members,
  • actions and outcomes that have included the views of employees, HSRs and
  • one on one meetings with employee’s and/or HSR’s.

The chosen methods of consultation must be suitable to the hazard and risk profile, the structure and operations of the relevant workplace.

If you have any questions or need any assistance with this or any other safety matter in your workplace, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our expert Health Safety and Wellbeing team who will be able to provide you with the information and support you require.

We can also assist with all of your OHS training needs with many courses for both managers and HSRs.

To speak to one of our experts about how we can help you with workplace safety please contact us on 03 8662 5333 or hsw@victorianchamber.com.au.

 

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