New WHS Act: Consultation representation of workers

Over the past few weeks, we have been providing you with and overview of some of the elements in the new Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WHS Act) that is due to be implemented this year. One of the biggest assets of any company is its workers, so this week we will looking at what the new act means for the consultation with workers and representation of workers.


Consultation contributes greatly to work health and safety. Under the new WHS Act there is a general duty to consult. Consultation is a collaborative process between PCBUs and their workers, involving the sharing of information about work health and safety. It is important to ensure that the views of workers are considered when making workplace health and safety decisions. An agreement does not need to be reached, however when there is an agreed consultation procedure then consultation must be according to the procedure.

A PCBU must consult with workers and take their views into account when:

  • identifying hazards and assessing risks arising from work
  • proposing changes that may affect the health and safety of workers
  • whenever specifically required to do so under particular regulations

and when considering making decisions about:

  • ways to eliminate or minimise risks
  • the adequacy of facilities for workers’ welfare at work
  • procedures for consulting with workers
  • procedures for resolving health and safety issues
  • procedures for monitoring the health of workers or workplace conditions
  • how to provide health and safety information and training to workers.

Workers who have been consulted under these provisions must be advised of the outcome in a timely manner. There is no particular way this advice must be given — for example, it could be given at a ‘toolbox’ meeting or posted as an intranet news item.


Workers are entitled to:

  • elect a health and safety representative (HSRs) if they wish to be represented by one
  • request the formation of a health and safety committee if they wish
  • cease unsafe work in certain circumstances
  • have health and safety issues at the workplace resolved in accordance with an agreed issue resolution procedure
  • not be discriminated against for raising health and safety issues

Where a HSR represents workers, then the consultation must involve the HSR so far as reasonably practicable, and also consult at times, places and in ways that are convenient for the workers and the HSR. Health and safety representatives are elected by a work group to represent their interests, the HSR must be member of the work group. Once the HSR has been elected the PCBU must keep a current list of all HSRs and deputy HSRs for the workplace and display a copy at the workplace.

*Disclaimer: Please note this communication is provided for general information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice, only a Legal Practicing Professional can provide legal advice.