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OHS Consultation and Communication

Policy

This policy outlines the required consultative and communication arrangements for schools in relation to employee health, safety and wellbeing.

Summary

  • The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004 (Vic) requires the Department, so far as is reasonably practicable, to consult with employees and their representatives regarding specified matters including when identifying or assessing hazards or risks to health or safety and when making decisions about measures to be taken to control these risks.
  • The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (Vic) set out the procedure to facilitate the resolution of health and safety issues in the absence of an agreed procedure. As part of consultation and communication the principal and/or their delegate must, where applicable and detailed below, communicate and consult on specified matters and decisions, establish Designated Work Groups (DWG), arrange for Health and Safety Representatives to be nominated and elected, and facilitate the agreement and implementation of an issue resolution process.
  • Under the OHS 2004, employees while at work must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the safety of others who may be affected by their actions or omissions.
  • Central and regional offices provide a range of supports and services to assist principals and employees to be safe and well, including access to OHS Advisory Service and local occupational health and safety regional officers, who can provide free advice on occupational health and safety consultative and communication arrangements.
  • The OHS Consultation and Communication Procedure must be followed, and provides the practical, step-by-step instructions for implementing this policy.
  • This policy forms part of the Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Management System, see OHS Management System (OHSMS) Overview — Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing for further information.

Details

Consultative and communication arrangement

The principal and/or their delegate must ensure that:

  • consultative arrangements are established to include health and safety representatives (HSR) and employees when making any decision or change in relation to OHS in the school (additional details of these decisions and changes are provided in the Procedure tab)
  • disclosure of any medical information is consistent with the Department's Privacy and Information Sharing Policy
  • the principal and/or their delegate, in consultation with HSR and employees, must determine which communication strategies are most appropriate for their school. As a minimum, the principal or their delegate must establish:
    • forums — (e.g. staff meeting) where OHS is discussed as a standing agenda item. This forum(s) is to occur at least once a month (or as otherwise agreed locally, based on the school’s context and risk profile)
    • an OHS Notice Board that contains the mandatory items, as per the OHS Notice Board Guide
  • the following information is communicated to employees and their representatives:
    • existing OHS practices and systems
    • changes to current OHS practices and systems
    • outcomes of school OHS inspections and audits

Designated Work Groups (DWG)

If the principal and/or their delegate receive a request from an employee or their representative to vary one of the particulars of their DWG or establish a new DWG, the principal or their delegate must initiate negotiations with all employees in the DWG. The OHS Act 2004 requires that this process must commence within 14 days of receiving the request.

Health and Safety Representatives (HSR)

If a school has an elected HSR, the principal and/or their delegate must consult with the HSR by:

  • providing the HSR with all the OHS information about the matter that the employer is-or-intending-to provide other employees
  • providing the information to the HSR in a reasonable timeframe, where practicable before distributing to all employees
  • meeting with the HSR if an invitation to meet is accepted or if a meeting is requested by the HSR
  • inviting the HSR to meet to consult about the OHS matter
  • giving the HSR a reasonable opportunity to express their views about the matter
  • taking into account the HSR’s views about the matter

Health and Safety Committee (HSC)

If requested by the HSR, the principal and/or their delegate must establish a health and safety committee within 3 months of the request. For more guidance (see the OHS Committee Guide).

At least half of the members of the health and safety committee must be employees and, so far as is reasonably practicable, health and safety representatives and deputy health and safety representatives.

The health and safety committee once established must meet at least once every 3 months and at any other time if at least half of its members require a meeting.

OHS issue resolution

The principal and/or their delegate are to implement an agreed OHS issue resolution process. The agreed process or OHS Issue Resolution Flowchart is to be communicated to all employees and displayed prominently in the school.

Definitions

Designated Work Group (DWG)
A designated work group is a group of employees in the workplace who share similar workplace health and safety concerns and conditions. In schools a DWG is defined as the whole workplace as a default. However, based on the specifics of the workplace. For example in a multi-campus secondary school, the DWG structure may altered to suit that environment, for instance one DWG for each campus.

Health and Safety Committee (HSC)
A cooperative forum for employers and employees to work together on OHS issues

Health and Safety Representative (HSR)
A Health and Safety Representative (HSR) is an employee who has been elected by the members of their designated work group (DWG) to represent them, providing a way for their views and concerns about health and safety to be heard by their employer.

Relevant legislation

Department policy outlining the required consultative and communication arrangements for schools in relation to employee health, safety and wellbeing

Reviewed 22 February 2021

Policy last updated

15 June 2020

Scope

  • Schools
  • School councils

Contact

OHS Advisory Service

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