Staff consultation and representation
This section contains obligations for all managers. It sets out the University's processes for consultation with staff on health and safety issues. It also describes the representation mechanisms available to staff under the occupational health and safety (OHS) legislation.
Consultation by managers (on behalf of the University) with affected staff or contractors takes place directly if there is no Health and Safety Representative (HSR) representing the staff or contractors, and with the HSR if there is one (see following). In a direct discussion with their manager concerning OHS matters, only the staff member can decide whether the HSR is to be present or not.
- What is consultation
- When does consultation take place
- Consultation on University-wide OHS matters
- Management responsibilities
- Staff representation
What is consultation?
Consultation means, in relation to a particular matter:
- sharing information (preferably providing the information to any HSR first), and in a timely manner
- inviting any HSR personally to meet with the manager and discuss the matter
- providing a reasonable opportunity for expression of views (e.g., the more complex the matter the less reasonable it would be to allow only 48 hours, or even one week, for expression of views)
- considering any views expressed.
Depending on the matter:
- invite participation in any inspection, accident investigation or risk assessment
- hold a staff meeting, for example, where a major change such as relocation or job redesign is proposed
- use email to keep any HSR and staff informed.
When does consultation take place?
A manager (at any level) should consult with affected staff when the manager is:
- proposing to introduce new plant, chemicals or work processes
- carrying out a health and safety inspection, accident investigation, risk assessment, health or environmental monitoring, or health and safety training
- considering a change in facilities or accommodation.
There may be circumstances in which it is not practicable to consult with affected staff or contractors, and the legislation allows for this. Advice may be obtained from the Manager, HWS. Managers should keep records about the consultation and any outcomes.
Consultation on University-wide OHS matters
Some managers make decisions which have University-wide OHS implications (see 'A manager's OHS responsibilities').
For example, some routine activities controlled by Facilities Management Services Division may have an impact on health and safety, such as lift maintenance and building maintenance works. Campus-wide or University-wide information of the works can be provided on the portal on the University website.
In the case of proposed non-routine changes that may have an impact on health and safety, the relevant manager should seek advice about consultation from the HWS Unit. Such changes may include the construction of new buildings and facilities or the introduction of new equipment such as computers or new systems such as computer software.
Managers have a legal responsibility to consult with staff on OHS matters. A safe workplace is more easily achieved when people at the workplace communicate with each other about potential health and safety problems and work together to find solutions.
Effective health and safety consultation also has other benefits:
- Greater awareness and commitment – because workers have been actively involved in how health and safety decisions are made
- Positive working relationships – because understanding the views of others leads to greater co-operation and trust.
For more information and guidance see OHS Consultation for Managers (PDF, 98.3 KB)
Staff may choose to elect Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) under the OHS Act, as described below. More detailed information about representation and consultation is given in the OHS Representation and Consultation Guidelines (PDF, 53.5 KB)
An HSR is elected from a Designated Work Group (DWG). A DWG is established at the request of an employee, subject to negotiations. Some DWGs already exist at the University. View current DWGs and elected HSRs (PDF, 76.6 KB) .
If a manager receives a request for a DWG to be established it is to be passed on to the Manager, HWS immediately.
Under section 54 of the OHS Act the members of a DWG may elect an HSR from the membership of the DWG. The OHS Unit is able to assist in conducting an election and may seek the assistance of a manager. If there is only one nomination, the nominee is deemed to be elected.
An HSR has the right to be involved in all health and safety issues affecting members of a DWG. The powers and rights of an HSR are set out in the OHS Act. WorkSafe provides information to assist HSRs.
Section 60 of the OHS Act empowers an HSR to issue a "provisional improvement notice" to a person where, in summary, the HSR believes on reasonable grounds that the person is contravening a provision of the Act, but only after the HSR has consulted with the person about remedying the contravention. Any provisional improvement notice must be brought to the attention of the University via the Manager, HWS (it may be an offence not to do so). If consultation is initiated by an HSR, the Manager, HWS should be contacted at this earlier stage.
Compliance with the notice (provided it is valid) becomes mandatory after eight (8) days at the earliest, depending on the date in the notice, if a WorkSafe inspector has not been called in by the person to whom the notice was issued. The Manager, HWS will manage the process.
The University has four general OHS committees established under section 72 of the OHS Act. The main University committee is the Occupational Health and Safety Committee which reports through the Chair to the Vice-President (Enterprise) and the University Executive and Council. Campus OHS committees are located at Burwood, Geelong and Warrnambool. Organisational areas may establish local OHS Committees after consultation with local HSRs and affected staff.
The University Occupational Health and Safety Committee (PDF, 95.3 KB) deals with OHS matters affecting the whole University including policy and procedural matters.
The University has three Campus Occupational Health and Safety Committees: Burwood, Geelong (Waterfront and Waurn Ponds) and Warrnambool. The Campus OHS Committees are made up of local OHS representatives and senior management representatives.
Some faculties and divisions have local Occupational Health and Safety Committees
Enquiries about, or matters for, the committees may be directed to a member, its secretary or to the Manager, HWS. For current Members of the Campus and University OHS Committees, please see OHS Committees (PDF, 78.7 KB)
Agendas and Minutes from Campus and University OHS Committees are kept at OHS Meetings.