Across Australia consultation is a legal requirement and an essential part of successfully managing work-related health and safety risks. Whatever the jurisdiction, there is a wide range of guidance on consultation that covers when to consult, with whom and how. This allows organisations to demonstrate compliance by a variety of suitable means such as regular and documented Health and Safety Committee meetings, tool box talks and team meetings with health and safety as part of the agenda.
The concept of achieving healthier and safer workplace when everyone involved in the work communicates with each other to identify hazards and risks is well founded as the conversation focusses on issues and concerns and encourages everyone to work together to find available and suitable solutions. Availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or control hazards and risks is, in itself, an essential part of determining what is reasonably practicable in a given circumstance.
Your own experiences of the consultation process may well tell you that when drawing on the knowledge and experience of your team, more informed decisions can be made about how the work should be carried out in a safer and healthier manner. Effective consultation may also lead to increased awareness and commitment and positive working relationships.
The natural extension to successful consultation is the communication to all the relevant persons on what the outcomes and solutions are and how these are to be implemented and monitored to ensure safer and healthier workplaces.
This includes cooperation between the people who manage or control the work and those who carry out the work or who are affected by the work.
One of the perceived benefits of work health and safety (WHS) legislation is the legal requirement, not only to consult but to also co-ordinate and co-operate activities with other duty holders such as contractors and labour hire organisations. The very same principles outlined below may also help organisations internally as well.
Whilst it could be argued that co-ordination and co-operation is implied in states yet to adopt WHS legislation (Victoria and Western Australia) it is not an explicit duty as required under WHS legislation.
Any organisation in Victoria or Western Australia seeking to be proactive when looking for health and safety solutions (including what is available and suitable) should be considering how better to cooperate and coordinate activities.
What is required for co-operation should be identified in the consultation process between the relevant parties.
Co-operation may involve implementing arrangements in accordance with any agreements reached during consultation with the other duty holder and involve not acting in a way that may compromise what they are doing for health and safety.
Co-operation also means that, if you are approached by other duty holders wanting to consult with you on a health and safety matter, you should not obstruct any communication and respond to reasonable requests from other duty holders to assist them in meeting their health and safety duty.
The co-ordination of activities requires duty holders to work together so that each person can meet their duty of care effectively without leaving any gaps in health and safety protection. It requires the planning and organising of activities together with the other duty holders.
This will include making sure that the measures you each put in place work effectively together to control the risks by identifying when and how each control measure is to be implemented then ensuring that control measures complement each other.
Co-ordination of activities may include the scheduling of work activities so that each duty holder carries out their work separately. It may require work to be arranged in a way that will allow for necessary precautions to be in place or pre-conditions met before particular work is done.
Where work is not effectively co-ordinated, the parties should consult further to determine what should be changed.
Improving consultation, co-operation, co-ordinate of activities with other duty holders will help address any gaps in managing health and safety risks that often occur when:
The outcome of consulting, co-operating and co-ordinating activities with other duty holders is an increased understanding of how your activities may impact on health and safety and that the actions you each take to control risks are complementary.
HAZCON is able to assist you in improving your health and safety management system to incorporate the above principles and provide training and work-shops that include worked case studies on this particular matter.
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