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Last updated: May 18, 2019

What Does Consultation Mean?

A consultation is a process of formal discussion that typically involves two or more separate groups of people.

Safeopedia Explains Consultation

Consultation plays a major role in occupational health and safety in several separate areas of practice. First, governments and government bodies hold public consultations on regulatory changes to occupational health and safety acts, such as updates to safety standards. Second, both governmental agencies such as OSHA and for-profit private consultancies will consult with workplaces to improve workplace occupational health and safety. Finally, employers will consult with their employees or their representatives on matters of occupational health and safety. In many jurisdictions, employers may face a legal obligation to consult with employees.

Employers have a legal duty to consult with their employees about workplace safety in most developed world jurisdictions. Consultations with employees generally require employers to seek feedback about current health and safety policies and to provide responses to that feedback. Employees are legally protected from punishment for any issue raised during a consultation. The specific rights to consultation possessed by employees may vary depending on their labor status. Under UK law, the amount of consultation required is larger in unionized workplaces than in non-unionized workplaces.

Public consultation is a process available in most democracies, though in some jurisdictions, public consultation may occur under alternative titles. The purpose of public consultation is to provide an opportunity for public input on a variety of issues, including occupational health and safety issues. The European Union used public consultations to evaluate the European Strategy on Safety and Health at Work 2007-2012 and to identify current and future occupational safety challenges.

Consultation with employees and other stakeholders is a prominent duty of occupational health and safety inspectors. Consultations may occur during advisory inspections that seek to help employers improve their workplace conditions and comply with a desired standard, as well as during regulatory inspections that seek to audit an employer to ensure they are meeting a legally required standard. Consultations with employees are undertaken to gain an understanding of normal workplace functions through the inspection process or through consultation with an employer.


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