Good consultation improving more than just the bottom line

The benefits of good workplace consultation are pretty clear for most NSW businesses – improved productivity, fewer injuries, and hopefully the all-important reduction in workers compensation premiums.

Workmen standing around in a factory

But for Groves Joinery owners Tracey and Gary Fuss, the reasons for putting good workplace consultation methods in place aren’t just about the bottom line – they’re much closer to home.

“Our employees have become an extension of our family, so it’s vital that we keep them safe,” said Tracey, who has owned the small joinery business with her husband Gary for 11 years.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure they are equipped with all of the information they need to make sure that their safety is protected on a daily basis. Continually talking and consulting with them about safety is the best way to do this.”

Groves Joinery mainly manufactures kitchens for the Hunter region. The business employs eight workers and two subcontractors. The main risks within their workplace revolve around working with machinery, manual handling, and completing repetitive tasks that can cause strain.

Tracey said their simple, but effective workplace consultation methods have created a culture in the business whereby safety is second nature.

“We don’t use the term consultation because I feel that is one of the terms that make people feel like it’s a long and possibly complex process. I probably use the words ‘a chat about safety’,” Tracey said.

“We like to do it in a non-formal setting for the most part. For us, consultation is an open discussion regarding a safety issue and working through the best way for the whole business to manage it.”

The staff at Groves Joinery participate in regular monthly meetings where they are encouraged to raise and talk through safety matters. Issues are identified and documented, and solutions are then implemented.

Tracey also relies heavily on the experience of her workers to help inform workplace procedures and policies.

“They’re at the coalface, so it’s important that we listen to what they have to say, and they’re really good at feeding back information about things we can do to improve, or changes that we can make to be safer.”

This extends further than just talking about safety, with Tracey and Gary also using consultation methods to plan for the future of their business.

For example, when deciding on new machinery or equipment, Gary talks with his workers at the business to help make decisions about what to buy.

When that new machinery is installed, the workers all stop work to go through the operating procedures for the machinery, and to talk about risks and how to prevent them while using it.

“It doesn’t have to be formal, and the bulk of what we do isn’t formal. But it’s these simple things that have made a big difference for us,” Tracey said.

Although Tracey had had some experience in work health and safety in her previous job as a registered nurse, she admits to feeling slightly overwhelmed when starting to review the consultation methods in her own business.

“I think the most important thing is to just make a start. Just start with one thing. I started with our general WHS policy and just built from there,” she said.

“It’s all about looking at those things – the bigger picture. So my advice to other businesses would be to write yourself a list and just start.”

Let SafeWork NSW help you implement effective workplace consultation methods in your workplace. Request a free safety advisory visit or call 13 10 50.

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