education.vic.gov.au

School operations

OHS Consultation and Communication

1. Preparing and planning for health and safety consultation and communication

Preparing and planning for consultation and communication is essential. It ensures employees are appropriately consulted on workplace issues and are provided the opportunity to contribute to health and safety decisions.

All employers and their local management representatives (the department and school principals) have a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic)External Link to consult with employees on workplace health and safety matters. This could be when a change is proposed in the workplace that will influence the health or safety of employees, or when new hazards or risks are identified for an existing or proposed task or activity.

Actions for principals and/or delegates

It is important that the principal and/or their delegate consider ways in which they can use data they have access to, such as eduSafe Plus reports, OHS Assurance Program results, workplace inspection results, and School Staff Survey results, to assist with discussions regarding the identification of health and safety risks within the school environment. For further information on what can be provided to a health and safety representative (HSR) for consultation purposes, refer to Designated work groups and health and safety representatives and Consulting with school staff and HSRs in this procedure.

To ensure effective systems are in place so that all school staff, including HSRs are consulted and communicated with when health and safety decisions are made, the principal and/or their delegate must:

  • establish a forum where OHS is discussed and minuted as well as being held on a regular basis (for example, staff meetings with a regular agenda item, a health and safety committee, OHS working group) – refer to ‘Establishing health and safety consultation and communication forums’ below for more information
  • establish at least one OHS noticeboard that is visible to all staff within the school. It must contain the mandatory items, as per the OHS Noticeboard guidance below.

1.1 Establishing health and safety consultation and communication forums

A principal and/or their delegate must ensure that forums or communication channels where health and safety matters are discussed are established. These channels assist with improving communication between school leaders and staff.

Schools are required to have an OHS noticeboard in place, which all staff are aware of. Updated OHS information must be displayed on the noticeboard, visible to all staff within the workplace. This can either be a physical board located within the workplace, or a virtual/online noticeboard which all staff can access quickly and easily.

At a minimum, the noticeboard must contain the following items:

Other consultation and communication processes must be established to fit the size and complexity of the school. In consultation with staff, schools must identify which is most appropriate for the school setting. The chosen forum does not have to be large, but it must suit the needs of your workplace and should represent all the different types of roles performed by staff at the workplace. Health and safety communications must occur on a regular basis, as agreed to through consultation with school staff.

Appropriate consultation and communication channels may include the following.

Health and safety committee

A health and safety committee is a formal structure where employers and employees discuss and make decisions on health and safety matters. If requested by the HSR, the principal and/or their delegate must establish the committee within 3 months of the request.

When establishing the health and safety committee the following will apply:

  • the HSR who requested the committee (if relevant), must attend as a committee member
  • the committee must consist of at least 51% employees to 49% management staff
  • the committee must meet every 3 months as a minimum with the meeting scheduled in the OHS Activities Calendar or alternative document, or every time 50% or more members request a meeting be held
  • the committee consists of an elected chairperson and secretary
  • minutes must be recorded and provided to all staff (for example, posted on the OHS noticeboard or emailed) – refer to the HSC meeting minutes template (DOCX)External Link (staff login required)
  • the committee must have a Terms of Reference outlining the committee’s commitment to safety and its assigned responsibilities – refer to the HSC meeting terms of reference template (DOCX)External Link (staff login required).

For more detailed information, refer to WorkSafe’s Health and Safety Committee GuideExternal Link .

OHS working group

An OHS working group is a less formal meeting of employee and management representatives that discuss and make decisions on health and safety matters. OHS working groups can be established as an additional consultation forum and cannot function as a substitute for a health and safety committee if a request for one to be established is made by an HSR.

An OHS working group:

  • can be made up of any ratio of management to employees
  • can be established to address specific health and safety matters
  • does not require a minimum number of meetings per year (although it is recommended that they meet at least once a term)
  • does not require assigned roles unless decided by the working group
  • is not required to maintain minutes although maintaining minutes is recommended – alternatively, information regarding decisions made can be communicated through staff meetings, where they will be minuted and displayed on the OHS noticeboard
  • does not require a Terms of Reference.

Resignation from the OHS working group can be verbal.

Staff meetings

Staff meetings can be a forum where health and safety is discussed as a standing agenda item with all staff. These meetings are an effective way of bringing together employees so they can share their health and safety experience. They also provide a regular forum to address ongoing and emerging concerns, collaborate on safety management and hazard minimisation.

Email updates

Email updates are emails sent to all employees that contains health and safety information. This system can be sent on a scheduled basis or as required.

Newsletters

Newsletters include printed or electronic newsletters available to all employees that contain health and safety information. These can be sent on a scheduled basis or as required.

Intranet

A dedicated health and safety section of an intranet can be used. This section could contain health and safety updates, documents, calendars and links to department resources. It must be accessible to all staff.

Includes information on preparing and planning for health and safety consultation and communication

Reviewed 12 January 2023

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