|Barriers to Effective Consultation|
Consultation is only effective if the process is genuine and YW views and suggestions are valued
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Barrier: Employers, supervisors and/or YWs lack understanding or have unrealistic expectations about WHS consultation processes and outcomes, e.g. employers may believe that only older, more experienced employees are worth consulting about WHS or YWs may think that because they have been praised for offering a suggestion, their employer will put their idea into action, regardless of whether it is appropriate.
Solution: Create a formal YW WHS consultation policy outlining the objectives and procedures for consulting YWs about WHS.
Barrier: The consultation process does not genuinely include YWs and they are only consulted in token or inadequate ways, e.g. YWs may be included in WHS workgroups but WHS representatives don't actively seek out their ideas and opinions.
Solution: Ensure the WHS Consultation Policy includes a specific requirement to consult YWs. Include a statement emphasising a committment to YW consultation.
Barrier: YWs are excluded from the consultation process, their views on WHS are ignored or their opinions have less value than those of older/more experienced workers.
Solution: Consult employees via WHS 'workgroups' representing a cross-section of employees to make sure everyone's views are expressed and considered. Workgroups can be formed in a number of ways, e.g. employees who are new to the workplace, doing similar jobs, working similar hours or in a particular building, etc. The important thing is that everyone, including YWs, gets involved in understanding and finding solutions to WHS issues.
Barrier: Difficulty finding time to adequately consult YWs, especially when YWs are only employed on a casual or part-time basis.
Solution: Consider using alternatives consultation methods such as surveys, emails, SMS and suggestion boxes. Another idea is to make WHS consultation a standing item on staff meeting agendas. Create an annual schedule of WHS items to include at each meeting, e.g. equipment safety, bullying and harassment, slips, trips and falls, etc.
Barrier: YWs do not seem to engage with and/or understand the methods used during the consultation process
Solution: Offer YWs some options and ask them to select the consultation method(s) they prefer. If YWs don't seem to be relating to the consultation process, select (and check) a variety of alternative methods. WHS consultation is far more likely to be effective if YW preferences and sensitivities are taken into account. Ask questions to check that YWs understand what is being asked of them and take care to keep voice tone and body language relaxed.
Barrier: Employees can't make informed decisions or suggestions because WHS records are not collected and / or communicated adequately, e.g. there is no information provided in advance on changes to the workplace that impact on WHS, such as new equipment.
Solution: Collect and publicise records of recent WHS information such as near-misses, new equipment / procedures, workplace injuries and illnesses. Provide all staff, including YWs, with access to this information and refer to it during consultation. Management must be committed to letting YWs know about things that can affect their safety at work.
Barrier: If YWs feel they are being judged or treated unfairly because of preconceived, negative or stereotypical views about themselves, they can 'shut down' and then refuse to participate or engage with the consultation process. Alternatively, YWs may stereotype employers and supervisors in similarly unrealistic or inappropriate ways.
Solution: Nobody feels comfortable about being judged unfairly, so treat all employees, including YWs, with respect. Take time to get to know YWs and look for opportunities to interact positively and find things in common with them both as employees and as people.
Being clear with YWs about the reasons and procedures for consulting them and how they can expect to participate will also help to build positive and safe workplace relationships.
Barrier: Effective consultation takes time and effort and initial progress may be slow. A short-term focus and lack of commitment can cause YWs and/or management to opt out of the WHS consultation process before the benefits can be seen.
Solution: Treat YWs' input with respect and provide genuine feedback on the results of their input. Ensure YWs understand the purpose and limitations of the consultation process and encourage them to participate.
Barrier: Poor consultation and communication techniques create barriers and limit the potential value of consultation. Examples include too much talking and not enough listening, asking 'closed' rather than 'open' questions, not considering YWs' specific WHS requirements or an inability to understand and communicate with workers from different cultures and backgrounds.
Solution: Train and support WHS Representatives and supervisors to develop and build skills and confidence in communicating and consulting with YWs. Using a variety of consultation strategies rather than sticking to one or two preferred methods will significantly increase the effectiveness of the consultation process. The best intentions in the world won't make any difference if WHS representatives and supervisors don't have effective consultation skills.
Barrier: YWs may be reluctant to offer opinions about WHS if they fear their comments will be made available to co-workers, will reflect badly on them or lead to them or a co-worker being singled out in some way.
Solution: As with most people, YWs can be sensitive about having their opinions made public, especially if they think their views will cause problems for themselves or others in the workplace. Conduct consultations in a way that ensures everyone's privacy is protected and encourages YWs to be open and honest. Storing consultation records in a secure location is also important.
Barriers: Employees working in different buildings or locations, staff shortages, distractions caused by noise / poor lighting / temperature.
Solution: Plan ahead, book a suitable space and give YWs plenty of notice of the meeting time and date. Provide alternative consultation methods for YWs unable to attend, such as a suggestion box, email or survey.
Barriers: These include a disorganised management structure, inefficient WHS systems, lack of WHS consultation training or lack of understanding of WHS rights and responsibilities.
Solution: Create relevant policies and procedures for consulting YW.
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Who are young workers?
Young workers are those aged up to 25 years.