As we have repeatedly mentioned in previous newsletters, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (ACT) is now in effect. It is important for employers, and the directors and senior managers of employers, to appreciate and discharge the significant responsibilities that they have towards their workers and other persons in their workplace.
One of the important responsibilities under the Act relates to consultation in the workplace.
Any person who owes a duty under the Act in respect of a work health or safety matter, such as a director or manager in control of a particular workplace, must consult, cooperate and coordinate work health and safety activities with all others persons sharing that duty.
A person in control of a business or undertaking (PCBU), such as a company, is also required under the Act to consult with workers about any work health and safety matter that is likely to directly affect the workers.
This obligation to consult will specifically apply, without limitation, when a PCBU:
- is 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;
- proposing changes to the workplace and its business operations that may affect the health and safety of workers;
- making decisions about the procedures for consulting workers;
- making decisions about resolving work health and safety issues in the workplace;
- making decisions about monitoring the health of workers and the conditions of the workplace; and
- providing information and training to workers.
Consultation required under the Act will, at a minimum, need to involve:
- exchanging relevant information about work health and safety issues with workers;
- giving workers an opportunity to raise work health and safety issues;
- giving workers an opportunity to express their views and contribute to decisions about work health and safety issues;
- the PCBU taking into account the views of workers;
- workers being advised in a timely manner of the outcome of any consultation; and
- a health and safety representative, where appointed (which we will address in next month’s newsletter) being involved in the consultation process.
Failure by a PCBU or other person carrying a duty under the Act to comply with the above consultation requirements can result in penalties of up to $20,000 for individuals and $100,000 for bodies corporate.
For more information on the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (ACT) or the consultation obligations under the Act, please contact Partner Lisa Barlin.