In order for Health and Safety to be effective within any business operation it is important that there is employee participation. Employers have a general duty to involve employees in health and safety matters, and provide “reasonable opportunities” for employees to participate in processes for improving health and safety in the workplace.
“Reasonable opportunities” take into account various matters, including the number of employees, nature of the work and employment arrangements, how hazardous the work is, and the willingness of employees and unions to develop a participation system.
Employers must have an employee participation system if it has 20 or more employees, or if an employee requests it. Employees, any unions involved, and employers are supposed to cooperate to decide on an appropriate employee participation system. The system must have a process for reviewing the system, but otherwise the details of the system are left to the parties to decide.
There are a number of worker participation practices or processes, a PCBU (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking) must have. According to WorkSafe, trained Health and Safety representatives are to have given greater power, and the employer/PCBU is obliged to support them in their role. Similarly, if the workers choose to form a Health and Safety Committee, then the PCBU must support the operation of this Committee.
“Depending what suits its workplace best, a PCBU could comply with this duty by having HSRs or a HSC – or both. Or they might have neither and rely on more informal practices instead. These might include regular toolbox talks, having health and safety as a regular agenda item at team meetings, or another feedback mechanism so staff have a clear way of raising any health and safety concerns with the PCBU. Informal practices like this may well be enough for smaller or low-risk businesses.”
It is important that you ensure your staff are engaged, have opportunity to be involved and ask questions, can seek relevant training and have feedback on changes or new policies and procedures that are implemented. Remember you have obligations to them and them to you so it is best you all work together. Get that employee participation working for you.