education.vic.gov.au

School operations

OHS Consultation and Communication

Policy

This policy outlines the health and safety regulatory and internal requirements relating to workplace consultation and communication in schools.

Summary

  • Principals and/or their delegates must ensure that affected staff and/or health and safety representatives (HSR), where elected, are consulted with when identifying or assessing hazards or risks or making decisions about matters related to health and safety.
  • Principals and/or their delegates must establish and regularly review consultation and communication systems to enable fair, transparent and effective consultation with school staff and HSRs (where elected).
  • All school staff are encouraged to contribute to consultation opportunities, engage with health and safety information being shared, and submit views and opinions to their principal and/or their delegate, or their HSR.
  • The OHS Consultation and Communication Procedure sets out the practical step-by-step instructions that schools must follow to implement the OHS Consultation and Communication Policy. Principals and/or their delegates must implement this procedure in consultation with HSRs (where elected), school staff and the health and safety committee.

Details

Consultation is a legal requirement under the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004 (Vic)External Link and is an essential part of managing health and safety. Effective, fair, transparent and timely consultation and communication builds trust and a shared commitment to improving health and safety in the workplace, contributing to positive workplace culture.

Principals and/or their delegates must ensure that affected staff and/or health and safety representatives (HSR), where elected, are consulted with in the following circumstances:

  • when identifying or assessing hazards or risks to health and safety in the workplace
  • when making decisions about the measures to be taken to control risks to health and safety in the workplace
  • when making decisions about the adequacy of facilities for the welfare of employees
  • when making decisions about the procedures for any of the following:
    • resolving health and safety issues
    • consultation about health and safety
    • monitoring health and safety within the workplace
    • providing information and training to employees.

Roles and responsibilities in managing health and safety consultation and communication

Under the OHS Act 2004 (Vic), managing the risks related to OHS consultation and communication is a shared responsibility between the department, the principal and/or their delegate, HSRs and school staff.

Department roles and responsibilities

The department, so far as is reasonably practicable, must:

  • consult with employees and/or their representatives prior to making decisions that relate to or are likely to affect their health and safety (such as department-wide policies)
  • provide expert advice and support to schools about this consultation and communication policy and include compliance with this policy in the OHS Assurance Program.

Principal and/or delegate roles and responsibilities

The principal or their delegate must:

  • consult with employees and/or HSRs (where elected) to determine consultation and communication strategies appropriate for the school, including to ensure all health and safety information is suitably communicated
  • implement a system which enables fair, transparent and effective consultation with employees and/or HSRs (where elected) on matters that affect health and safety, including the identification of hazards and any decisions made as a result of the consultation process
  • allow HSRs to have access to information that the principal and/or their delegate has relating to actual or potential hazards or incidents at the school (principal or delegate can only share medical information about an employee with that employee’s consent, or where the employee’s identity cannot be reasonably ascertained).

Health and safety representative roles and responsibilities

All health and safety representatives (HSRs) are to:

  • bring health and safety issues raised by employees within their designated work group (DWG) (school) to the attention of the school leadership team or health and safety committee (where established)
  • follow the agreed school issue resolution process when a health and safety concern or issue is raised or identified
  • attend health and safety committee meetings, where established.

School staff roles and responsibilities

All school staff:

  • are encouraged to contribute to consultation opportunities, engage with health and safety information being shared, and submit views and opinions
  • bring health and safety issues or concerns to the principal and/or their delegate or the HSR (where elected)
  • follow the agreed issue resolution process when a health and safety issue or concern is raised or identified.

Safety is a shared responsibility, and everyone has a role to play.

The department and principals/delegates must also ensure that adverse action or discriminatory conduct is not engaged in or taken against employees because of their current or former status as HSRs or members of a health and safety committee or powers exercised in those roles, or because of any actions they might have undertaken, such as providing information or raising an issue or concern about health and safety with an HSR or a member of a health and safety committee.

Key requirements to enable consultation and communication in schools

The OHS Consultation and Communication Procedure (in the Procedure tab) outlines detailed requirements that schools must follow to provide evidence of effective consultation and communication processes and maintain a healthy and safe workplace.

The principal and/or their delegate must complete the following tasks:

  • following consultation, establish consultation and communication systems, including as a minimum:
  • allow staff members within a DWG (the school/campus) to determine how a HSR election is to be carried out
  • communicate the availability of information, instruction and training that relates to occupational health and safety
  • establish an agreed school issue resolution process for all school employees
  • maintain and store consultation and communication records as required.

Department supports for schools

Central and regional offices provide a range of supports and services to assist principals and employees to be safe and well. These include access to the OHS Advisory Service and regional OHS support officers who can provide free advice on powers of HSRs, functions of health and safety committees and effective health and safety consultation and communication measures.

Consultation
Consultation involves sharing information with employees about health and safety matters that affect their work in a meaningful and transparent way. Consultation must occur either through HSRs as the employee representative, or, where HSRs have not been elected, with the affected employees directly. Employees must be given notice of the subject being consulted upon and a reasonable time to consider the information shared. Employees must be given a reasonable opportunity to express views about the matter and have those views considered. Feedback received is taken into account before a final decision is made.

Deputy health and safety representative (DHSR)
A DHSR is an elected employee responsible for representing employees within a designated work group on matters relating to workplace health and safety in the absence of the HSR.

Designated work group (DWG)
A DWG is a group of employees in the workplace who share similar workplace health and safety concerns and conditions. Each school or school campus will be a DWG unless other arrangements are established in accordance with the Act, as the structure of the DWG may be altered to suit the school environment.

Health and safety committee
A cooperative forum established by employers in consultation with employees to work together on OHS issues. The Act formalises the governance of health and safety committees. A health and safety committee must be established if requested by HSRs and are a way for employers and employees to meet regularly and work co-operatively. Employees are entitled to be represented in health and safety issues at the workplace.

Health and safety representative (HSR)
An HSR is an employee who has been elected by the members of their DWG to represent them, providing a way for their views and concerns about health and safety to be heard by their employer. They have powers under the Act to deal with health and safety issues within a DWGExternal Link . Where HSRs are elected, they must be included in the consultation process.

Relevant legislation

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

Reviewed 12 January 2023

Policy last updated

12 January 2023

Scope

  • Schools
  • School councils

Contact

OHS Advisory Service

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