Talk the Walk – OHS Communication and Consultation in YOUR Workplace

Effective OHS Communication and Consultation is an essential, yet often overlooked (or underdone) area of an OHS management system in the workplace. Chris Beasley of Smart OHS™, sheds light on improving the way we communicate OHS issues in the workplace.

There is much conjecture within our industry, and many others, relating to OHS communication and consultation. Common questions are: What issues should we be communicating to staff? How do we keep records of this? What is an OHS Committee? The answers can be found in NSW OHS legislation and the OHS Consultation Code of Practice – you just need to know where to look.

OHS Legislation made EASY

Let’s face it – no-one wants to wade through pages and pages of OHS legislation in their spare time. The information here should get you started.

Key areas which need to be highlighted start with Chapter 3 of the OHS Regulation 2001 Workplace Consultation, which discusses OHS consultation requirements, and Division 2 Sections 13-19 of the NSW OHS Act 2000 which outline employer responsibilities and the “duty to consult” with employees about OHS matters.

The OHS Act goes on to explain options to further develop clear and effective consultative mechanisms in the workplace under Division 2 Section 17:

OHS committees (s.17(1))

  • When there are 20 or more people employed at the place of work and a majority of the employees requests the establishment of one or more committees, or if WorkCover directs that establishment.
  • More than one committee is to be established if the majority of employees request their establishment and the employer agrees or if WorkCover so directs.

OHS representatives (s.17(2))

  • An OHS representative is to be elected if at least one person employed at a place of work requests it or if WorkCover directs it.
  • The employees may elect more than one OHS representative if the employer agrees or WorkCover so directs.

Other agreed arrangements (s.17(3))

  • Other agreed arrangements for consultation with employees can be established if there is agreement between the employer and the employees and the arrangements meet the requirements of the Regulation. (A Federal or State organisation of employees may represent any of the employees who request the organisation to represent them, for the purposes of consultation under the other agreed arrangements).


  • The employer may make arrangements for the establishment of an OHS committee or election of an OHS representative whether or not it has been requested by any of the employer’s employees (s.17(4)).
  • An OHS representative(s) may also be an employee representative on an OHS committee(s).
  • The employer can have both OHS committees and OHS representatives to consult with employees. If both exist, the OHS committee is the primary consultation mechanism.

Source: WorkCover NSW

OHS Consultation Code of Practice 2001

Another excellent source of information on how to go about developing and maintaining good channels of effective OHS Consultation is the OHS Consultation Code of Practice 2001 (WorkCover NSW). The Code of Practice is an excellent ‘plain English’ tool, which outlines key issues for OHS Consultation, from both the Employers’ and Employees’ perspective.

The Code of Practice also highlights key benefits for OHS Consultation and identifies both effective and ineffective consultation practices.

Start improving TODAY!

The most difficult OHS challenge facing owners and managers in the hospitality industry is finding the time to devote to these types of issues while running a successful business. But there are a number of simple, yet effective ways to open up the consultation and communication channels in your workplace starting today! These include:

  • A suggestion box for staff to leave their ideas for the consideration of management.
  • An OHS notice board to display latest news and important information.
  • A clear written procedure to be developed and displayed on notice board for issue resolution which explains where to go to get help if required.
  • A written policy to be developed and displayed on the notice board relating to consultative arrangements in the workplace (i.e. these are the members of our OHS Committee and they are responsible for etc. etc.).
  • List OHS as an “Issue of Importance” to discuss during every staff meeting.
  • Elect an OHS Representative or put together a Committee.

Be Resourceful

You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Valuable resources are on hand to provide assistance in the areas of consultation and communication including:

Improving open communication and consultation channels in your workplace is not only an OHS requirement in New South Wales, but essential to maintaining happy, motivated and productive staff. A little more talk can go a long way…

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The newly introduced Harmonisation Laws require all employers to consult regularly with employees on safety matters. More importantly they need to demonstrate how they consult on safety matters and show that theses skills are held by the employer or their officers.  Safety Concepts has partnered with a Registered Training Organisation to offer the fully accredited course BSBOHS402B Consultation in the Workplace which is designed to satisfy the requirements of the new Harmonisation Laws. You can complete this training course for only $200 per employee using our online learning platform. Busy employers, managers and supervisors do not have to attend classes or lectures – it is all online. 

Click here to enroll now for this Government Approved OHS qualification.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

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