WHS duties – Consultation

Consulting with workers

PCBUs must, so far as reasonably practicable, consult with workers who carry out work for the business or undertaking and who are (or are likely to be) directly affected by a health and safety matter. This includes employees, contractors, volunteers and anyone else who carries out work for the business or undertaking.

By drawing on the knowledge and experience of your workers, you can make more informed decisions about how to carry out the work safely.

You must consult with workers when:

  • identifying hazards and assessing risks 
  • making decisions about ways to eliminate or minimise those risks
  • making decisions about the adequacy of facilities for the welfare of workers, and
  • proposing changes that may affect the health or safety of workers.

Some duty holders have additional consultation requirements, such as designers, importers and manufacturers of plant, persons authorising work on electrical equipment, and principal contractors for construction work. The Model Code of Practice: Work health and safety consultation, cooperation and coordination includes a list of these requirements at Appendix E.

You must also consult with workers when developing procedures for:

  • consulting with workers on work health and safety 
  • resolving work health and safety issues 
  • monitoring workers’ health and workplace conditions, and 
  • providing information and training for workers. 

You may also need to consult with workers about other health and safety matters.

When consulting with workers you must: 

  • share information 
  • give workers a reasonable opportunity to express their views and contribute to decision-making  
  • take those views into account before making decisions on health and safety matters, and 
  • advise workers of the outcome of consultations.  

Consultation should be done in a way that is accessible and can be understood by everyone, for example, people who are culturally or linguistically diverse.

If workers are represented by a Health and Safety Representative (HSR) you must involve them in any consultation on work health and safety matters. 

Sharing information 

You must share relevant information with your workers and health and safety representatives (HSRs) about anything that might affect their health and safety. This will help you to have informed and constructive discussions. 

This information may include:  

  • health and safety policies and procedures
  • technical guidance about hazards, risks and risk control measures 
  • hazard reports and risk assessments 
  • proposed changes to the workplace, systems of work, plant or substances, and 
  • data on incidents, illnesses or injuries (in a way that protects the confidentiality of personal information).

You should present information in a way that can be easily understood by your workers and consider literacy needs and the cultural or linguistically diverse backgrounds of your workers.

You must also ensure a list of any HSRs (if you have them) is displayed in a central location that is accessible to workers in relevant work groups. This enables workers to find out who can represent them if a work health and safety issue arises. More information on health and safety representatives.

Consulting with other duty holders

PCBUs must consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with all other persons who have a work health or safety duty in relation to the same matter, so far as is reasonably practicable. 

Duties might be shared because the businesses or undertakings are involved in the same activities, share the same workplace or have a duty of care for the same workers. In these situations, each duty holder should exchange information to find out who is doing what and work together in a cooperative and coordinated way, so risks are eliminated or minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.  This includes coordinating arrangements for consulting with the affected workers. 

More information on consulting, cooperating and coordinating with other duty holders.

Keeping records

It is good practice to keep records to demonstrate compliance with consultation requirements. Records of consultation may also assist the risk management process and make disputes less likely. 

Records should include outcomes of discussions, and any agreements you reach with other duty holders. Records can be brief and simple, and cover: 

  • what the safety matter is 
  • who was identified as affected, or likely to be affected 
  • who was involved in consultations 
  • key issues identified 
  • what decision has been made 
  • why the decision has been made 
  • who is to take action and by when, and 
  • when the action was completed. 

Supporting information