What’s the difference between engagement and participation, do I need to involve all workers in engagement and participation, and when is engagement required?

Engagement and participation are related duties. What is done to meet one duty can help meet the other.  Both involve two-way communication – a conversation about health and safety.

  • Engagement is how a business involves its workers in work health and safety matters and decisions.
  • Participation practices are the on-going ways for workers to raise health and safety concerns, be part of making decisions which affect work health and safety, and offer suggestions for improving health and safety. 

Together with your workers, you can determine the best way to meet your duties. What is reasonable and practical 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 a particular system is in place.

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.

All workers who carry out work for a business or undertaking must have reasonable opportunities to participate in improving work health and safety. This includes everyone, from the front line to managers and leaders.

However, when engaging on a matter relating to work health or safety, you only need to engage those workers who are, or who are likely to be, directly affected by that matter.

Worker engagement, participation and representation duties do not apply to volunteer workers. However, given a business has the same responsibility for the health and safety of all its workers, it can make sense to involve them. Volunteer workers can help identify issues or suggest good ideas to help improve workplace health and safety.

Prisoners carrying out work inside a prison are also excluded from worker engagement and participation duties.

Businesses need to engage and consult with workers when:

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

Businesses must also engage with workers when developing worker participation practices  ways for workers to participate in improving work health or safety on a day to day basis.