Health and safety communication and consultation procedure

Intent and objectives

The Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 requires all employers to consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, on matters which are likely to affect the physical and psychological health, safety or welfare of people within the workplace.

This procedure aims to provide a clear framework within the University for:

  • Consultation and communication of health and safety matters
  • Employee representation on health and safety matters

Managers are responsible for ensuring consultation is a fundamental element of health and safety management within their workplace.

Consultation provides the opportunity for cooperative problem solving and improved outcomes for health and safety.

This procedure recognises the benefits of employee input and participation on health and safety matters and aims to:

  • Promote cooperation between managers and employees in managing and resolving workplace health and safety risks,
  • Ensure managers and supervisors are aware of hazards and health and safety issues experienced by employees, students, contractors and visitors,
  • Enhance decision making about health and safety by gathering a wider source of health and safety ideas and knowledge,
  • Support the University’s commitment to health and safety,
  • Reduce the number and severity of health and safety risks and hazards, and
  • Strengthen the health and safety culture within the University.

Consultation on health and safety issues at RMIT University occurs via elected Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs), Health and Safety Committees (HSCs), risk management and general systems of sharing information.

Scope

RMIT University wide procedure

Procedure steps and actions

1. How to Consult on Health and Safety

Procedure

Responsibility

Consultation which is meaningful and enables employees to contribute to and shape decisions about health and safety embraces the following steps:

Sharing Information

Provide information in a timely, accessible and easily understandable way.

Allow time for the opportunity for people to express views, ask questions, raise safety concerns and recommendations and be part of the problem solving process.

Taking Views into Account

Consider the views of staff before making a decision and encourage staff to help shape the decisions about health and safety.

Feedback

Once views are taken into account, communicate back to staff the decision made and the reasons behind the decision.

Heads of Schools/non academic business units.

Supervisors/line managers.

Property Services

People and Culture

2. When to consult

Procedure

Responsibility

Consultation is required with employees whose health and safety is likely to be directly affected by the following things:

  • Identifying hazards or risks in the workplace (e.g workplace inspections, incident investigations);
  • Making decisions on how to control risks;
  • Making decisions about the adequacy of facilities for employee welfare (e.g. first aid, toilets, change rooms);
  • Making decisions about procedures to:
    • consult with employees on health and safety matters,
    • resolve health and safety issues,
    • monitor employees’ health and workplace conditions, and
    • provide information and training;
  • Determining the membership of any health and safety committee (not just those required to be established after a request by the HSR);
  • Proposing changes to:
    • the workplace, including buildings,
    • plant, substances and other things used in the workplace, and
    • the work performed at the workplace.

Heads of Schools/non academic business units.

Supervisors/line managers.

Property Services

People and Culture

3. RMIT mechanisms for health and safety consultation

Procedure

Responsibility

Guidelines

Managers and supervisors must consult so far as reasonably practicable with employees, agency staff, contractors and their employees who are likely to be directly affected by the health and safety matter.

Consulting with Health and Safety Representatives

Where there is an elected HSR, the consultation must include that person (with or without the direct involvement of employees) by undertaking the following:

  • Providing the HSR with all the information about the matter that the employer provides or intends to provide, to the employees,
  • Providing that information to the HSR a reasonable time before providing the information to the employees, unless it is not reasonably practicable to do so,
  • Inviting the HSR to meet about a matter requiring consultation, or agree to meet at their request,
  • Giving the HSR a reasonable opportunity to express his or her views about the matter, and
  • Taking into account the HSR’s view about the matter.

Heads of Schools/non academic business units.

Supervisors/line managers.

Property Services

People and Culture

Establishment of Designated Work Groups and electing Health and Safety Representatives –

Each School/non academic business unit is required to establish Designated Work Groups (DWG) and to elect HSRs to represent the interests of the DWG. Members of the DWG may also decide to elect a Deputy HSR (DHSR). This is to be done in accordance with the management guideline.

HSRs and DHSRs are elected by employees of the DWG for a period of up to three years.

The names and contact details of HSRs must be displayed in a prominent position in each workplace.

Heads of Schools/non academic business units.

Supervisors/line managers.

Property Services

People and Culture

RMIT OHS Management Guideline – Establishment of Designated Work Groups and the Election of Health and Safety Representatives

HSR details template.

Including Health and Safety Representatives activities in Work Plans.

To enable the University and the HSRs to carry out health and safety consultation obligations, the Employer Representative (ER) in each workplace must consult with the HSRs and agree the tasks and activities the HSR will undertake throughout the year and the time commitment required to fulfil those obligations.

Agreed tasks and activities will be documented in the HSRs annual work plan, and may include the following:

  • Workplace inspections
  • Attending and preparing for Health and Safety Committee meetings
  • Advising Staff
  • Consultation
  • Training
  • Other activities as agreed.

General workloads must be adjusted in the annual work plan to allow a HSR to participate in the agreed activities.

OHS Management Guideline –School/non academic business unit Health and Safety Committee.

Health and Safety Committees

Upon the request of an elected HSR, a Health and Safety Committee (HSC) must be established within 3 months of the request and approval of this procedure.

Schools/non academic business units are required to form their own HSC unless there is agreement under section 3.6 of this procedure to have an alternative form of consultation.

Committees are formed as a mechanism for:

  • Planned and structured consultation,
  • Broad consultation addressing matters affecting more than one DWG,
  • The formulation and review of School/non academic business unit health and safety procedures,
  • The sharing and dissemination of health and safety knowledge, and
  • Informing employees and raising awareness of health and safety matters.

HSCs must meet at least every 3 months.

HSCs are to be formed in accordance with the management guideline.

A register of all committees formed under this procedure will be maintained on the RMIT Health and Safety website.

Alternatives to Forming a Health and Safety Committee

Where a School/non academic business unit decides through consultation with staff, and with the agreement of the HSR, that they do not wish to form a committee, they must establish an alternative method of consultation.

Alternative methods of consultation must:

  • Achieve the functions outlined for a health and safety committee,
  • Be agreed by the HSR, and
  • Be documented in a consultation plan.

Reasons for not forming a committee might be:

  • The small size of the business unit would make it impractical,
  • Remote locations making meeting difficult,
  • Consultation with staff and agreement of the HSRs identify alternatives which are preferable, or current arrangements are working well,
  • Health and safety consultative mechanisms are already well integrated into operational practices, and
  • A HSC already exists.

People and Culture

4. Formulate a consultation plan

Procedure

Responsibility

Guidelines

All Schools/non academic business units must develop a consultation plan following the University guideline.

Formulating a consultation plan enables Schools/non academic business units to review and agree on consultation processes to:

  • Comply with health and safety requirements,
  • Further enhance and integrate consultative processes,
  • Align consultative processes with their own specific operational conditions,
  • Consider forming a Health and Safety Committee as a broad mechanism for consultation, and
  • Establish timelines for consultation.

Formulating a consultation plan requires consultation with the HSR and staff to whom the consultation plan would apply.

Once the consultation plan is agreed it must be followed.

The effectiveness of the consultation plan should be monitored and reviewed at least on an annual basis, and amended as necessary in consultation with HSRs and the HSC where established.

Heads of Schools/non academic business units.

Supervisors/line managers.

Property Services

People and Culture

OHS Management Guideline - Health and Safety Consultation Plan

5. Health and safety processes that require consultation

Procedure

Responsibility

Guidelines

Hazard and Risk Assessment and Control

Health and safety risk management must be incorporated into all University activities.

Risk management is a process of identification of workplace hazards, assessment of potential health and safety impact (including psychological), and the development of suitable control measures to effectively manage the risks.

HSRs must be consulted when Schools/non-academic business units are developing and reviewing changes to local area risk assessment procedures.

Heads of School/non academic business units

Supervisors/line managers

Property Services

A range of guidelines and tools have been developed to assist with this process and are available on the Health and Safety website.

Incidents

All incidents in the workplace must be investigated and, where appropriate, actions implemented to prevent a recurrence of such an incident in accordance with the Hazard and Incident Reporting, Investigation and Recording Procedure.

HSRs must form part of the incident investigation team and consultation on future preventative actions must include the HSR and employees affected by the proposed actions.

Hazard and Incident Reporting, Investigation and Recording Procedure

Issue Resolution

Health and safety issues must be raised and resolved in accordance with the University Health and Safety Issue Resolution Procedure.

Issue resolution requires consultation by the Employer Representative with the HSR of the DWG.

The RMIT University Health and Safety Issue Resolution Procedure and the Management Guideline - Issue Resolution Process and Flow Chart

Employer Representatives

Schools/non academic business units re required to nominate Employer Representative/s (ER) for the purpose of resolving health and safety issues in accordance with the Health and Safety Issue Resolution Procedure.

OHS Management Guideline – Nominating Employer Representatives

Changes to the Workplace

Consultation is required on any changes to the workplace that may impact on the health and safety of employees.

Consultation must take place with all employees that may be affected, including the health and safety representative, so far as reasonably practicable, and where there is an HSR, before other employees.

Changes to the Workplace Flow Chart

Changes to the workplace – excluding new buildings and building alterations.

Such changes include:

  • Minor modifications to the workplace, maintenance and repairs
  • Introduction of new equipment/machinery, substances and processes
  • Work performed at the workplace

The Proposed Change in the Workplace - Consultation Flow Chart is a model consultation process developed for use within the University. This Chart should be used as a guide to consultation when changes are being planned. Schools and non academic business units should consider incorporating the flow chart into their Health and Safety Consultation Plan.

Changes to the Workplace – New Buildings and Alteration to Existing Buildings

The University has an agreed process for health and safety consultation on proposed major changes to the workplace involving new buildings and alterations to existing buildings. The Proposed Change in the Workplace Consultation Flow Chart – New Buildings and Alterations, outlines the process for consultation when a new building or alteration to an existing building is being proposed.

Development of Health and Safety Policies and Procedures

The development of University health and safety policies and procedures must follow the University Policy on Policies. Health and Safety policies and procedures require consultation with HSRs before other employees.

Consultation on procedures for health and safety in local areas must occur with the HSR before other employees in the DWG.

The RMIT University Proposed Changes to the Workplace – New Buildings and Alterations to Existing Buildings Flow Chart

6. General systems for sharing information

Procedure

Responsibility

The University has other systems in place that can also be used for health and safety consultation:

  • Health and safety should be included on the agenda of existing meetings where appropriate to allow discussion at all levels of the University. These include management and staff meetings at both the School/non academic business unit level and the Portfolio/Resource Division level.
  • Information can be circulated via email, local or University websites and newsletters. These can be used to publicise new policies and procedures, consult during the development of policies and procedures and to seek feedback. They can also be used to alert staff of health and safety hazards.

7. Maintaining records of consultation

Procedure

Responsibility

Guidelines

Details of health and safety consultation must be recorded and retained as evidence that consultation has occurred in accordance with legislation and University policy.

Consultation plans should specify the documentation to be kept as part of a consultation process.

Head of School/equivalent heads of non academic business units

Property Services

People and Culture

OHS Management Guideline – Health and Safety Consultation Record

8. Retention of consultation records

Procedure

Responsibility

All records associated with health and safety consultation must be retained for the following periods:

  • Minutes of meetings - 5years
  • Risk Assessments- for the life of the equipment, substance or process plus 5 years
  • Copy of plans and correspondence containing recommendations –5 years
  • Consultation Plan – 5 years
  • Consultation Record - 5 years

Head of School/

Equivalent heads of non academic business units

Property Services

People and Culture

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