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HR Tactics Newsletter - 2017 May/June

Welcome back SME business owners!

Let's be honest - the WHS Act is a pretty daunting document to read cover to cover - that's why our latest newsletters are doing the hard work for you. We're breaking down your business compliance obligations with the WHS Act in to easy-to-understand and easy-to-implement steps so you can get on with meeting your WHS obligations with clarity and peace of mind.

This edition of our Newsletter is moving on to step 2 of the 7 step process for developing a Safety Plan for your SME -
how to set up a WHS consultation system in your business. Yes, the law says you MUST consult with your workers on WHS matters and have evidence to prove it. To see how simple this can be implemented in your business, read on and contact us if you need clarification on anything you read.

Why do I have to consult with my workers on WHS matters?

Your duty to consult is based on the recognition that worker input and participation improves decision-making about health and safety matters and assists in reducing work-related injuries and disease.

The broad definition of a 'worker' under the WHS Act means that you must consult with your employees plus anyone else who carries out work for your business. You must consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with your contractors and sub-contractors and their employees, on-hire workers, volunteers and any other people who are working for you and who are directly affected by a health and safety matter.

When to consult your workers

You need to consult your workers when:
  1. managing risks
  2. deciding on welfare facilities
  3. making changes that affect their health and safety, and
  4. developing procedures

MANAGING RISKS
Consultation is required when identifying hazards, assessing risks and deciding on measures to control those risks.

Regularly walking around the workplace, talking to your workers and observing how things are done will also help you identify hazards. Conducting a survey of your workers can provide valuable information about work-related health issues such as workplace bullying, stress, as well as muscular aches and pains that can signal potential hazards.

In deciding how to control risks, you must consult with your workers who will be affected by this decision, either directly or through their health and safety representative. Their experience may help you identify hazards and choose practical and effective control measures.

Make sure your workers have access to information such as technical guidance about workplace hazards and risks (plant, equipment and substances). Information should not be withheld just because it is technical or may be difficult to understand.

DECIDING ON WELFARE FACILITIES
Welfare facilities are things provided for the welfare of workers, such as toilets, drinking water, washing facilities, dining areas, change rooms, personal storage and first aid.

You must consult your workers when making decisions about what facilities are needed (for example, the number and location of toilets), taking into consideration the number and composition of your workforce, the type of work your workers do and the size and location of your workplace. The consultation should also cover things such as access, cleaning and maintenance of the facilities.

If the facilities are already provided at the workplace, you should consult your workers and their health and safety representatives when there are any changes that may affect the adequacy of the facilities. This will help you determine if you need to change or expand your facilities.

MAKING CHANGES THAT AFFECT THEIR HEALTH AND SAFETY
You must consult your workers when planning to make changes that may affect their work health and safety, for example when:
  • changing work systems such as shift work rosters, work procedures or the work environment
  • developing a new product or planning a new project
  • purchasing new or used equipment or using new substances
  • restructuring the business.

DEVELOPING PROCEDURES

A procedure sets out the steps to be followed for work activities. You must consult with affected workers when developing procedures for:
  • resolving work health and safety issues
  • consulting with workers on work health and safety
  • monitoring workers' health and workplace conditions
  • providing information and training.
Procedures should be in writing to provide clarity and certainty at the workplace and assist in demonstrating compliance. They should clearly set out the role of health and safety representatives, and any other parties involved in the activity. The procedures should be easily accessible, for example by placing them on noticeboards and intranet sites.

If issue resolution procedures are agreed to, the WHS Regulations include minimum requirements including that these procedures are set out in writing and communicated to all workers to whom the procedure applies.

What is effective consultation?

Consultation does not mean telling your workers about a health and safety decision or action after it has been taken. Consultation is a two way process between you and your workers

  • talk to each other about health and safety matters (eg. regular adhoc discussions and/or put it on meeting agendas)
  • listen to their concerns and raise your concerns
  • seek and share views and information, and
  • consider what your workers say before you make decisions.

If you put WHS on the agenda for each team meeting, start discussion by reminding them that their safety is important to you and they are encouraged to:
  • ask questions about health and safety
  • raise concerns and report problems
  • make safety recommendations
  • be part of the problem solving process

If it is a logistical nightmare getting all your employees together for meetings, sending a regular email out to them all might be a better idea. Again, impress upon them in that email that their safety is important to you and they are encouraged to <see list above>.

REMEMBER: Not knowing your employer obligations is no defence!

Contact us if you have any questions regarding your WHS obligations and until next time, keep safety a top priority!


Read our past newsletters here:
March 2017 - What is my Primary Duty of Care as an employer?
April 2017 - 4 steps to developing a Safety Plan for your SME