Consultation in the workplace

Consultation is emphasised in the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (opens in new window) with an obligation placed on employers to consult employees and safety and health representatives (if any) on safety and health at the workplace. To complement this, employees have a duty to cooperate with their employer on safety and health matters.

The Formal Consultative Processes at the Workplace guidance note (opens in new window) provides practical information on the more formal processes for consultation at the workplace and is available from WorkSafe (opens in new window).

Safety and health committees

Safety and health committees provide agencies with an opportunity for senior management and representatives of employees to regularly discuss and make discussions about occupational safety and health issues within the workplace.

In accordance to Section 40 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 the functions of the safety and health committee are:

  • providing consultation and cooperation between the employer and employee;
  • initiating, developing and implementing safety and health measures;
  • keeping informed about safety and health standards in similar workplaces;
  • making recommendations on safety and health rules, programs, measures and procedures at the workplace;
  • ensuring information on hazards is kept where it is readily accessible;
  • considering and making recommendations about changes that may affect the safety and health of employees;
  • considering matters referred to it by safety and health representatives; and
  • performing other functions prescribed in the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 or given to the committee with the consent, by the employer.

WorkSafe has a bulletin on establishing safety and health committees. 

Safety and health representatives

Safety and health representatives are an effective workplace mechanism for providing participation and improved consultation between employers and employees.

Safety and health representatives are not the same as safety and health officers or coordinators and are not responsible for solving safety and health matters in the workplace.

Safety and health representatives are the key to communication between management and employees. Their functions include:

  • Regular inspections of the workplace (every 30 days is the minimum requirement of the Occupational Safety and Heath Act 1984);
  • Immediate investigation of any accident, dangerous incident or risk of serious injury/harm to any person (either in conjunction with management or individually);
  • Keeping up-to-date with safety and health information available from WorkSafe and other bodies;
  • Reporting hazards in the workplace to management;
  • Consulting and cooperating with management on any safety and health matters;
  • Referring any relevant matters to a safety and health committee if there is one at the workplace; and
  • Liaising with employees about safety and health matters.

WorkSafe has bulletins on electing and training safety and health representatives. 

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