Safety Consultation

July 15th, 2011

A safety consultation is the process by which you and your workers collaborate on matters of health and safety through the sharing of views and ideas. When done correctly, this can lead to greater awareness of and commitment to safety measures and positive working relationships by understanding the reasons behind certain measures.

It’s important to find the best method of conducting a safety consultation, prior to engaging in the consult, as certain businesses will find different methods more effective for solving problems. The main aim is to include employees in the process, without significantly disrupting their work schedule or making it a chore.

Collaboration

During the consultation employees should be encouraged to collaborate with management by asking questions, raising concerns, and making work health and safety suggestions. Make the matters relevant and give access to related information for best results, as workers who feel informed will be more willing to engage in the consultation. They must be given a reasonable window of opportunity to speak up, alternative ways to share their views, and be advised of the outcome of the consultation as soon as possible.

Communication channels such as intranet sites, notice boards and newsletters are good ways to keep employees updated and allow an ongoing health and safety dialogue. Collaboration directly involving employees must be done at a convenient time within work hours, but consultation with a health and safety representative could be organised for any time.

Deciding what to take on board from the ideas of workers can be difficult, as some suggestions may not be reasonably practicable, but it’s important for managers to understand that workers have an entirely different experience of the workplace. What you think is the best solution may not necessarily be so, due to finer details that are not apparent to you as a manager. The idea of collaboration is to be open to all suggestions, and only choose not to pursue those that are blatantly unreasonable. Your capacity to effect certain changes will depend on the nature of the business, work carried out and the magnitude of the action itself.

Method of Consultation

The length of time a consultation should take, and its depth, will depend on the nature of the issue. For example, an extensive consultation should take place if the issue affects a lot of people, or is likely to cause serious harm. A smaller issue that affects a handful of people could be addressed in a couple of days. Workers may elect to do the consult completely through a health and safety representative, or in a more open, group situation. It can be as formal as a structured meeting, or be in the form of an informal chat with workers. One-on-one may suit the nature of the issue better, or one-on-many might be more practical for an issue that affects a large number.

Making Changes

Let everyone know of any changes that have resulted from the consultation prior to their introduction, as this will increase the likelihood of acceptance and successful implementation. Ensure everyone knows the correct procedures surrounding the change, have all relevant information, and undergo necessary training. Informed and safe workers are happy, productive workers so use safety consultations to further your organisation.