Worker engagement and participation

All businesses should have planned, well known ways to engage with workers and support their participation in health and safety matters. Things are likely to work better when you have a mix of formal and informal ways for workers to contribute.

Understanding your duties 

Businesses, directors and workers have their own responsibilities to keep people healthy and safe at work. HSWA also requires everyone to work together to improve health and safety.

Under HSWA, businesses have two related duties to engage with workers and enable them to participate in improving health and safety. You must:

ensure that workers’ views on health and safety matters are asked for and taken into account, and have clear, effective, and on-going ways for workers to suggest improvements or raise concerns on a day-to-day basis.

Together with your workers, you can determine the best way to meet these two related duties. What is reasonable and practicable will depend on workers’ views and needs, the size of your business and the nature of its risks. The law enables flexibility and innovation: the focus is on effectiveness rather than whether any particular system is in place.

[image] WEPR infographic - ask questions, share ideas.
Infographic: Ask questions, share ideas

Engagement 

When workers are engaged in work health and safety, then everyone benefits. Your business is a healthier and safer place for everyone, and performance and productivity increase.

HSWA sets out the key steps in the health and safety engagement process but, in short, you must:

  • share information on matters relating to health and safety (this includes specific issues that you need to engage with workers on)
  • give your workers time to consider the issues
  • give your workers a reasonable opportunity to
    • express their views and raise work health or safety concerns, and
    • contribute to the decision-making process
  • take into account the views of your workers, and
  • advise your workers of the outcomes in a timely way.

All businesses should engage regularly with their workers, and the law also makes it clear when you must engage with workers.

When is engagement required? 

You need to engage and consult with workers who are directly affected by a matter relating to health and safety. This includes when:

  • hazards are identified and assessed
  • making decisions about
    • addressing risks
    • the adequacy of staff welfare facilities
    • monitoring worker health and work conditions
    • providing information and training to workers
    • procedures for resolving work health or safety issues
  • determining work groups, and
  • proposing changes which may affect the health and safety of workers.

You must also engage with your workers when developing ways for workers to participate in improving work health or safety on a day to day basis.

The Goud Milk case study is a great example of worker engagement.

Participation

All businesses should have planned, well known ways to engage with workers and support their participation in health and safety matters. Things are likely to work better when you have a mix of formal and informal ways for workers to contribute.

Worker participation in health and safety can be done in a number of ways, it all depends on what works best for your business and the workers.

A well-established way to support worker participation is by electing Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs), or setting up a Health and Safety Committee (HSC).

If HSRs and/or HSCs are part of your worker participation practice(s), the Act sets out requirements for how they will work.

If you already have engagement and participation practices that are effective and consistent with HSWA, then that’s great – the focus is on effectiveness rather than what systems you have in place.

The Goodmans' case study is a great example of worker participation.

WorkSafe's approach to worker engagement and participation 

Our priority is to inform, educate and support businesses and workers so we can:

  • help you understand what effective engagement and participation looks like, and 
  • show you how to put it into practice.

When we work with a business, we look at your engagement and participation practices. If we find problems, we act in a way that is proportionate to the situation.

We will ask questions, provide relevant information and, where necessary, we will ask you to make improvements.

If we undertake an investigation, we will consider whether your business met its worker engagement and participation responsibilities, and whether any failure in these responsibilities contributed to the problem.

WorkSafe position on worker engagement, participation and representation (PDF 1.9 MB)