Worker Consultation – how much is enough?

With the new WHS legislation already in place in most states, and soon coming to WA (well maybe!?) – a relatively new Safe Work Australia code on consultation is worth a look. Why?

  1. because the WHS legislation has a greater emphasis on consultation than WA’s current legislation and this code gives details on those requirements; and
  2. even if the WHS legislation doesn’t come to WA, the new legislation and its increased consultation focus is already a key reference to consider when deciding what makes “reasonably practicable” consultation.

With the above in mind, we draw on the Safe Work Australia code, to help answer the question – how much consultation is enough?

Here’s some key points:

  • Management must consult with workers affected by the safety matter – employees, contractors, volunteers. Include as many people as reasonably practicable.
  • Everyone does not have to agree.
  • Consultation doesn’t happen in a vacuum – an urgent response to an immediate risk may be needed, thus limiting consultation.
  • If a worker is on extended leave it’s unlikely to be reasonably practicable to consult with them.
  • Workers who will not be impacted by the safety matter, don’t need to be included in consultation.
  • Including safety and health representatives in consultation (even just keeping them in the loop) is always recommended.
  • Low to Moderate risk workplaces should hold an OSH Committee meeting with employees at least every 3 months and/or include OSH in team meetings every month.
  • Include employees/Health and safety representatives in incident investigations.

In determining if you’ve consulted enough, it’s always a good sign if you can answer “yes” to the following question:

Do all stakeholders understand the decisions and changes made?

Must consultation be documented?

It’s not mandatory to document consultation, but it is recommended that management keep records of consultation related to significant safety matters. Records can be brief and simple, covering the following points makes for good practice: who is involved; what the safety matter is; what decision has been made; who is to take action and by when; when the action has been completed.

Remember consultation isn’t just good practice…its legislatively required.



Safe Work Australia Work Health and Safety Consultation, Co-operation and Co-ordination Code of Practice

WorkSafe WA Formal Consultative Processes at the Workplace