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Consultation, representation and participation

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires duty holders to consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with others who have a duty in relation to the same matter; and to consult with workers who carry out work for the business or undertaking.

This is achieved through the effective and coordinated efforts of persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs), work health and safety officers (WHSOs), health and safety representatives (HSRs), health and safety committees (HSCs).

Legislative amendments in relation to WHSOs, HSRs and HSCs took effect from 1 July 2018. These include:

  • the requirement for PCBUs to provide Workplace Health and Safety Queensland with a list of HSRs and deputy HSRs for each work group
  • mandatory training for HSRs within three months of a HSR being elected to the role and refreshed at three yearly intervals.
  • the requirement for PCBUs to forward to the regulator a copy of all PINs issued by HSRs
  • the ability for a PCBU to appoint a WHSO
  • the requirement for a PCBU to display a current list of WHSOs for the workplace
  • enabling the appointment of a WHSO to be permissible as evidence that a PCBU has taken action to mitigate health and safety risks.

Who should I consult?

Consultation is a collaborative process between the PCBU and workers. It involves sharing information about health and safety.

PCBUs must give workers who are, or are likely to be, directly affected by a matter relating to health and safety, a reasonable opportunity to express their views or raise issues.

Business operators need to consult with workers to:

  • provide them with relevant safety information
  • raise WHS matters
  • get their input on:
    • identifying hazards and assessing risks
    • making decisions about ways to eliminate risks
    • decisions regarding adequacy of facilities
    • proposed changes that may affect health and safety
    • decisions on health and safety procedures.

If a Health and safety representative (HSR) is appointed to represent workers, the consultation must involve them.

Learn how to consult with your workers.

All HSRs must undertake the relevant approved training course within three months of their election. If a worker refuses to undertake the training within the time period, they will no longer be eligible to fulfil the role of HSR and will need to be replaced.

A PCBU must ensure that a list of health and safety representatives and deputy health and safety representatives (if any) for the business or undertaking is prepared and kept up-to-date. A copy of the up-to-date list must be displayed in a way that is readily accessible to workers in the relevant work group or work groups:

  • at the principal place of business of the business or undertaking
  • at any other workplace that is appropriate taking into account the constitution of the relevant work group or work groups.

A copy of this list must also be emailed to the Regulator.

Guidance

Read more about health and safety representatives.

A health and safety committee facilitates cooperation between a PCBU and workers in developing and carrying out measures to ensure health and safety at work. This includes health and safety standards, rules and procedures for the workplace.

An HSC must meet at least once every three months and at any reasonable time at the request of at least half of the members of the committee.

Read more about Health and safety committees.

On 23 October 2017, the Queensland Parliament passed the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (the amendment Act) as a result of the Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ).

Read more about Work health and safety officers.

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (the WHS Act), business operators, have a duty to consult with other business operators who have the same duty in any situation.

Sharing responsibilities

There are often situations where more than one business operates at a workplace and where people share responsibility for work health and safety to varying degrees (for example, shopping centres, construction projects, labour hire, multi-tenanted office buildings).

Section 16 of the WHS Act requires that:

  1. where more than one person has a duty for the same matter, each person retains responsibility for their duty in relation to the matter and must discharge the duty to the extent to which the person can influence and control the matter.

    Section 46 of the WHS Act also requires:

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

Under the WHS Act, you cannot transfer your responsibilities to another person. The requirement to consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with other duty holders will help you to meet your primary duty, to ensure, as reasonably practicable, all workers and other persons are not put at risk from work carried out as part of your business or undertaking.

Consultation, cooperation and coordination between you and the person providing those facilities will help you ensure that the necessary steps are being taken so that you can meet your duty.

The duty requires persons conducting businesses and undertakings to work together in a proactive and reciprocal way. All risks associated with any activity that they are involved in are eliminated or minimised as far as is reasonably practicable.

Issue resolution processes

The WHS Act require all business operators to develop an issue resolution process in consultation with their workers. If no process is developed, the new laws set out a default process. The parties must make reasonable efforts to achieve resolution of the issue in accordance with the agreed or default procedure.

  1. If resolved, details must be set out in writing and communicated to workers and Health and Safety Representatives (HSR).
  2. If not resolved, any party to an issue may request the assistance of any other person, who can enter the workplace for the purpose of assisting in resolving the issue.
  3. If an issue still remains unresolved, either party may ask the regulator to appoint an inspector to attend the workplace to assist.
  4. If one of the following categories of disputes remains unresolved at least 24 hours after the regulator has been asked to appoint an inspector to assist in resolving the dispute, the matter can be referred to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) for resolution:
  • matters about work health and safety that is subject to the issue resolution process under Part 5, Division 5 of the WHS Act;
  • cessation of work under Part 5, Division 6 of the WHS Act;
  • requests by a health and safety representatives for an assistant to have access to a workplace under section 70(1)(g) of the WHS Act; and
  • access to information by health and safety representatives under section 70(1)(c) of the WHS Act.

In dealing with a dispute, the QIRC may:

  • consider the matter by means of mediation, conciliation or arbitration and make any order it considers appropriate for the prompt settlement of the dispute;
  • review a decision made by an inspector to use their compliance powers to assist in resolving the dispute (i.e. if an inspector issues an improvement notice to assist with resolving a dispute, the QIRC can review the inspectors decision and confirm, vary or set aside the inspectors decision); and
  • decide not to deal with a dispute, and order costs, if they consider the matter to be frivolous, vexatious, misconceived or lacking substance.

View the issue resolution fact sheet (PDF, 0.54 MB)

Code of practice and national guide