Is consultation really a “two-way exchange”?

Talking about safety in the workplace is, by far, the best way to introduce and foster a healthy OHS environment.  OHS regulators in Australia have been pushing this for sometime.

A colleague of mine has pointed out an apparent anomaly in relation to consultation posted by WorkSafe Victoria on their website earlier this week.  In relation to Provisional Improvement Notices, WorkSafe says

“Consultation can still be said to have occurred even if:

* the duty holder does not respond to the HSR [Health and Safety Representative] in a reasonable time or at all.  In this case, the HSR can take the failure to respond into account before deciding to issue the PIN.  There does not have to be a two-way exchange – only the opportunity for this to occur;”

This sounds odd to me and I hope that one of the SafetyAtWorkBlog readers may be able to explain.

My colleague posed this question on the issue of consultation:

“If the duty holder generated an OHS issue and the HSR did not respond, would there still only need to be an ‘opportunity for this to occur’?”

It seems a far question when workplace consultation is supposed to be a “two-way exchange”.

2 thoughts on “Is consultation really a “two-way exchange”?”

  1. Steve

    I take your point. I have always viewed PINs as an indication that consultation is absent from a workplace if a PIN needs to be applied. It is an admission of frustration, and sometimes a cry for help.

    I have been involved in assisting with the lifting of a Provisional Improvement Notice many times and it is rare that the employer comes out of the process feeling that it was worthwhile. They feel \”bullied\” and sometimes believe that the PIN wouldn\’t have been raised if the employees better understood the economic status of the company.

    I am not a supporter of the safety culture advocates, as I have seen too many shonky promoters (a bit like behavioural-based safety promoters) but discussion about safety, openly and throughout all levels of a company is the best way to avoid PINs.

    Perhaps, any consultation that involves PINs is a different type of consultation than that concerning OHS in general.

  2. Kevin, it could just be my NSW brain, but I read this quite differently.

    The situation without the ‘one way street clause’ would lead to the following: In order for a PIN to be issued there needs to be consultation. Therefore, if I want to be obstructive I can refuse to ‘consult’. I then ‘win’ because I can’t be issued with a PIN.

    Alternately, with the ‘one way street clause’ in place, if I refuse to consult I lose because the PIN can still be issued – even though I have been obstructive and unhelpful and would not consult.

    In fact the real effect of the one way street clause is to encourage (force) me to consult, because if I don’t, I run the risk of being issued with the PIN without having had my say about things. Viewed this way the one way street clause is, in fact, designed to encourage discussion.

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