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Worker/HSR – Communication and consultation
What is consultation?
Consultation on health and safety is a two-way process and should be seen as an opportunity to add value when making decisions. This process involves:
- talking about issues
- listening to and raising concerns
- understanding your role
- seeking information and sharing views
- discussing issues in a timely manner
- considering what is being said before decisions are made
- attending scheduled meetings.
How can I contribute to consultation as a worker?
You can make sure your voice is heard by contributing to team meetings, talking with your work group, and giving feedback on policy and procedures when asked. Participation in consultation provides you with an opportunity to think constructively about health and safety issues that affect you, contribute ideas for improvement, and work as a team in implementing good workplace safety practices.
Your HSR is your main point of contact regarding health and safety matters, so make sure you inform them of any concerns or safety issues. Having your HSR represent your work group can help because:
- A HSR is likely to understand your views and concerns.
- HSRs can be trained in work health and safety and in how to represent you.
- A coordinated and formal approach to raising ideas and concerns with your PCBU can have greater impact.
- HSRs have rights and powers to take action on your behalf.
HSRs represent groups of workers in relation to health and safety matters affecting workers.
When should you be consulted?
One of the objectives of the WHS Act is to foster a cooperative, consultative relationship between PCBUs and workers on their health, safety and welfare at work.
Your PCBU is required to consult with you on a range of matters that may directly affect your health and safety. If you are a HSR or represented by a HSR, then you or your HSR, must also be included in the consultation.
There are number of situations when your manager and senior leaders are required to consult with workers. They are when:
- identifying hazards and assessing risks arising from work.
- making decisions about ways to eliminate or minimise those risks.
- making decisions about the adequacy of facilities for the welfare of workers.
- proposing changes that may affect the health and safety of workers.
- making decisions about the procedures for resolving health and safety issues.
- monitoring the health of workers or workplace conditions, information and training or consultation with workers.
- carrying out any other activity prescribed by the WHS Regulations.
When your PCBU consults with you on a health and safety issue, you need to consider the information provided and give feedback to the PCBU through your HSR.
How can I contribute to improving and promoting communication?
Workers and HSRs have a vital role in communication. On any normal working day we communicate on a number of different levels. We do this by:
- talking to other team members
- seeking support and guidance from friends and other colleagues
- discussing work practices and other issues with managers
- using the internet and intranet to gain updates and information
- using a range of social media options to stay in touch.
To ensure that communication is effective in your workplace, you should use all the available and established channels to provide your ideas and concerns about health and safety in your workplace.
Workers can use the following suggestions as ways to ensure they are contributing to effective communication:
- contribute at meetings
- access and seek information from your intranet
- use emails to clarify, and provide a two way communication approach
- establish an open and constructive approach to talking to your colleagues and mangers
- consider the barriers to communication in remote and isolated work locations (e.g shift work, working on your own, isolated by distance or team support, working from home) make contact daily where possible.
Your Role as a HSR
HSRs play an important role in representing the health and safety interests of workers in a work group.
As a HSR you are not expected to be an expert on health and safety issues. Nor are you expected to be the person responsible for health and safety in your workplace. You are facilitating the flow of information regarding health and safety between PCBUs and workers.
You should keep your colleagues involved in health and safety matters and represent them in discussions with managers on a range of health and safety issues, such as identified hazards and issue resolution. Make sure you update your fellow workers on any health and safety matters that concern them. Ensure that workers can contact you, and that the communication process is an open one.
If you identify a health and safety issue and you believe there is a noncompliance with the legislation, you must consult with your supervisor. The legislative process emphasises the resolution of issues through consultation between PCBUs and HSRs.
The PCBU has responsibilities to you in your capacity has a HSR. The PCBU must:
- When issuing a PIN, inform you who issued the notice, and the action taken to comply with the notice.
- On request, consult with you about the implementation of changes that may affect the health and safety at work of their workers.
- In relation to your work group, permit you to take paid time off work to take an accredited HSR course; undertake workplace inspections; be present at an interview about the safety of a worker and the PCBU or an investigator; take necessary paid time off work to exercise your powers as a HSR.
Provide you with access to information about risks to the health and safety of workers, and facilities necessary to exercise your powers.
Barriers to effective consultation
There are many barriers to how we communicate and consult with each other in the workplace. Finding the right time and delivering messages in the right way can be a challenge. Workers and HSRs should establish a relationship with their manager that encourages open and honest discussion and mutual trust. Consultation often fails due to:
- lack of clarity of message
- absence of emotional resonance in your message
- inaccurate targeting
- poor timing
- no genuine feedback process.
Tips to reduce barriers through communication:
- engage people on an emotional level
- provide clear messages with concrete examples to help people focus their energies
- think about what you say and how you say it (is what you are saying aligned with what your are feeling and thinking?)
- written material should be backed up by verbal communication
- check the tone of the communication (edit, edit and edit again)
- some news is better than no news
- let people know the status of what is happening, you are the key in communicating change, workers look to you to see if there is real acceptance.