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WTR

Health and Safety at Work Act: Worker Participation and Engagement

17 July 2016

Health and Safety at Work Act: Worker Participation and Engagement

Last month we discussed the Health and Safety Representative (HSR) duties under the new HSWA Worker Participation and Engagement regulations. This month we want to discuss further what Worker Participation and Engagement means for Workers and Persons Conducting Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) and provide some advice on how to effectively have Worker Participation and Engagement in the workplace.

The HSWA introduced the concept of twin duties for workers and PCBUs – worker participation and engagement. The 'twin duties' are equally important. Together, these duties empower a PCBU to lead health and safety in their workplace. 

Engagement 
Engagement means talking and listening to your workers. It is particularly valuable at key times, like when identifying hazards and risks, making changes to work that affect health and safety, or developing worker participation practices. Sometimes engagement will be directly with the workers and sometimes with Health and Safety Representatives.

Participation
Worker participation practices are there to provide effective ways for your workers to talk to you about health and safety matters, so that you're in a better position to manage the risks in your business or undertaking and keep people safe and healthy.

Effective Communication
Communication is a transfer of information. Effective communication is when the 'meaning' of the information is successfully 'exchanged': and the information is 'understood'. 
An HSR needs to communicate effectively, and must be comfortable with the different forms of communication – face to face, voice to voice, written, and so on.

Communications between PCBUs and workers may include the following:

  • Formal and informal discussions (one on one, interviews, group discussion)
  • Meetings (i.e. tool box, tail gate, committees, site and team)
  • Awareness and training sessions
  • Written communication (i.e. Letter, email, memo, intranet).

It is important that information about health and safety matters are shared so that workers are well-informed; it also gives workers reasonable opportunities to contribute their views and to participate in decision-making. Feedback is the first step to continuous improvement. People cannot be expected to improve without feedback. PCBUs and workers should provide feedback to eachother; the HSR can be conduits between both these are parties.
The PCBU should also listen and consider what workers have to say. This feedback must be considered by the PCBU when decisions are being made and any decisions must be communicated to workers in a timely manner.
Feedback can be sought as per communication methods above.

 Alternative feedback methods may include:

  • Suggestion for improvement forms
  • Feedback boxes
  • Tool box and Tail gate meetings
  • Health and Safety Committee
  • Staff surveys
  • Focus groups of interested parties
  • Polls
  • Creating online communities/Social Networking
  • Formal recommendations.