Importance of Worker Consultation & Participation in Development of OH&S Management System or H&S Policies
The effectiveness of the OH&S management system can only be enhanced by developing a culture of worker consultation & participation within the organisation. Generally, people will cooperate and engage more willingly with an OH&S management when their opinions and knowledge have been aired and listened to. Therefore, an organisation should encourage active and ongoing participation of, and consultation with, workers in the development and review of OH&S practices and, where appropriate, the development of the OH&S management system.
What Organisations need to do to Improve Consultation & Participation of Workers
It is up to the organisation to determine the best way of ensuring effective worker consultation & participation, and whether it needs to set up formal mechanisms such as health and safety committees. While consultation is about seeking workers’ views, and considering them, before making a decision, participation is about joint decision-making, e.g. jointly undertaking a risk assessment and agreeing actions or being involved in deciding the organisation’s OH&S policy and objectives.
The organisation should consider the need for worker consultation & participation in case of the following scenarios or activities:
- New processes, policies and procedures;
- New or unfamiliar hazards;
- Construction, modification or change of use of buildings and facilities;
- Introduction of new or modified equipment and new or amended controls;
- Use of new chemicals or materials;
- Changes in legal and/or other requirements;
- Investigating incidents and nonconformities and determining corrective actions;
- Formal and informal suggestion schemes
- Determining applicable controls for outsourcing, procurement and contractors;
- Determining what needs to be monitored, measured and evaluated;
- Planning, establishing, implementing and maintaining an audit programme;
- Ensuring continual improvement;
- Changes in emergency arrangements;
- Developing new or improved OH&S arrangements and procedures.
To improve worker consultation & participation within an organisation, top management should:
- Make available time, resources and training necessary for consultation and participation;
- Provide relevant information about the OH&S management system in a timely manner;
- Identify and remove or minimise deterrents to participation such as, language or literacy difficulties, policies that discourage worker participation, etc.
Practical means of improving consultation & participation may include:
- Establishing a safety committee consisting of managerial and non-managerial employees;
- Instituting a safety suggestion box;
- Developing a consultative approach to health and safety inspections/audits, affording all workers an opportunity to voice any health and safety concerns;
- Annual employee surveys to understand employee attitudes towards health and safety
- Monthly meetings and tool-box talks;
- Adding health and safety as an agenda item to company-wide meetings;
- Discussing health and safety at performance reviews;
- Incentivising suggestions to improve health and safety;
- Undertaking risk assessments in conjunction with other workers, such as technicians, operators, cleaners, contractors, etc;
- Worker training and development;
- Regular briefings and discussion forums via newsletters, message boards, social media, etc.
The organisation should ensure that processes for consultation and participation of workers include contractors and other interested parties also.
ISO 45001 places importance on the involvement of workers in the OH&S management system in Clause 5.4: Consultation & Participation of Workers. In conclusion, the organisation is in a better position to achieve its OH&S objectives and to identify opportunities for improvement when top management creates a culture that encourages people, at all levels, to actively participate in the OH&S management system.