Consultation and Participation – What’s the difference with ISO45001?

Consultation and Participation was imbedded within OHSAS18001, what’s the difference with ISO45001?

Consultation and Participation of workers (ISO45001, Clause 5.4), is significantly enhanced from the requirement within OHSAS18001, where this was limited to hazard identification and consultation on changes.

ISO 45001 expects occupational health and safety aspects to be fully embodied within the organisation structure, including a greater degree of employee participation in the risk identification, hazard control and development of systems. All workers should be aware of their responsibilities, and work together to meet the organisation’s health and safety goals. Everyone, including leadership, is responsible for safety.

What does Consultation and Participation imply?

  • Consultation implies two-way communication, so workers (or their representatives when appropriate) can provide feedback to be considered by the organisation before taking a decision.
  • Participation implies the contribution of workers (or their representatives), including non-managerial workers, to decision-making related to OH&S performance and to proposed changes.

What does the term worker mean?

  • In the context of ISO 45001, ‘The Worker’ is defined as the person working under the control of the organization, this is at all levels and includes contractors.

To facilitate the process of consultation and participation, the organisation must provide the required mechanisms, simply identified as:

  • Time, training and resources
  • Removal of obstacles or barriers, e.g. language, literacy or fear of reprisals

The provision of training to workers at no cost and during normal working hours could remove barriers to their participation.

The involvement of workers in the OH&S management system, along with the processes to support, is a key requirement for an effective management system. This involvement enables the organisation to make informed decisions and increase worker engagement.

Mechanisms can vary based on organisations, this can include,

  • The inclusion all workers, in smaller organisations
  • Workers’ representatives within larger organisations
  • Being involved with the policy, setting objectives
  • Suggestion schemes – formal and informal, along with communication on whether action is to be taken
  • Focused team meetings and / or workshops
  • Briefings and discussion forums, worker surveys, cross functional groups
  • Review of existing arrangements and continual improvement projects
  • Hazard identification and risk assessment participation to ensure appropriate working

Considerations should also take into account the methods, language and location for consultation and participation.

Worker involvement on day-to-day activities, along with those closest to the risk, provides an insight into actual issues. However, Consultation and Participation should be effective and proportionate to the organisation, not everyone is required to be involved, not every suggestion acted upon.

The organisation should determine the best and appropriate ways to implement effective consultation and participation and whether more formal mechanisms e.g. H&S committees, are required. It is important that once the mechanisms have been set up that they are supported by Management.

Making joint decisions with workers is more likely to be effective for the development, planning, implementation, performance evaluation and actions for improvement of the OH&S management system, as workers are the key interested party.