Why are communication and consultation important to safety and health?

What is effective communication?

Effective communication is a two-way process, where each person listens to what the others have to say and considers what it means, and in return is listened to.

When people communicate effectively, it is easier to discuss important information, share concerns or ask for help. There is a better understanding of someone else’s perspective and the situation, leading to better decision making and more sustainable solutions to problems.

As simple as communication seems, much of what we try to communicate to others (and what others try to communicate to us) gets misunderstood, which can lead to accidents, conflict and frustration at the workplace.

Communication strategies (2005) - 490 Kb

This toolbox presentation outlines communication strategies.

What is consultation?

Consultation is the process by which management must discuss the development of systems, policies, practices and issues of mutual concern with workers or their representatives. It involves seeking acceptable solutions to problems through a genuine exchange of views and information.

Consultation does not remove the right of managers to manage as they must still make the final decision. However, it does impose an obligation that the views of workers will be sought and considered on issues that affect those workers before decisions are taken. In determining how to meet this obligation, employers should consider the effect of the issue on workers’ safety and health, and how effective and meaningful consultation on the issue can be achieved.

Consultation involves employers actively seeking and then taking account the views of workers before making a decision. It involves two-way communication with employers providing information and workers taking on the responsibility of actively participating in the process.

An important principle of consultation is reaching an agreeable outcome on an issue or topic that is satisfactory to all parties and persons, and moves towards a safer and healthier environment.

Consultation at work - code of practice - 1735 Kb

Consultation at work - code of practice: This code of practice provides guidance on meeting the requirements in the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 relating to consultation in the workplace.

Formal consultative processes at the workplace - guideline - 761 Kb

Formal consultative processes at the workplace - guideline: This guideline provides explanatory information to employers and employees about safety and health representatives.

Effective consultation (2008) - 1873 Kb

This toolbox presentation contains information on how to consult effectively and ways to resolve issues that may arise.

How do effective communication and consultation improve safety and health outcomes?

Developing a resilient safety culture relies on effective communication and consultation between management and workers about safety and health issues at the workplace.

Consultation should not be viewed as merely a legal requirement, but as a valuable means of improving the employer’s decision-making about safety and health matters, and an opportunity make positive cultural changes.