Delegating Health & Safety Responsibilities - Hasmate
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Delegating Health & Safety Responsibilities

Delegating Health & Safety Responsibilities

If you were like me after watching the All Blacks winning the World Cup, you would have been proud to be a Kiwi!

The All Blacks certainly displayed a high degree of skill, discipline and professionalism that truly made them champions and great ambassadors for NZ and for the sport. The under arm backward flick of Sonny Bill Williams to another skilled player who Sonny knew with confidence was ready to take it, is now a tactic that is being used to good effect.

It was interesting to follow Steve Hansen as the front man but also as the last man in the queue to receive his gold medal, a great example of a leader.

But something we did not see much of were the support team in the background, who worked diligently in their delegated responsibilities to make the wheels run smoothly. In all respects what we saw was a well-oiled game plan that was much akin to a well-oiled business.

Apart from the accolades for our champions, my reason for this article is to focus on a trend that I have seeing more and more of in the area of health and safety. These observations are only drawn from Hawke’s Bay but if this is an indicative example of the rest of New Zealand, then it’s something that employers should be alerted to.

This issue is the passing down the responsibility of the company’s health and safety to receptionists, account personnel and other employees (mainly female office staff), and making them the company’s Health & Safety Officer, while at the same time juggling all their other responsibilities. In effect, what is happening is delegation or to put it bluntly, the offloading of an important compliance responsibility onto a staff member who in many cases have no knowledge, skills or training in health and safety (H&S), or additional time or payment for the responsibility.

While it is commendable that many NZ business owners are starting to take onboard the responsibility of H&S, many business are applying this approach because of the low associated costs. But is it the most cost effective option?
What has to be remembered is that as a business owner or manager, health and safety will no longer be able to be abdicated or contracted out. It can be delegated to an employee but it is unfair to the employee if they do not have the training, skills, authority to act and the time to undertake the task.

A definition of delegation

Theodore Roosevelt (US president 1901-1909) who defined delegation as “giving away what you would like to keep, THE AUTHORITY and having to keep what you would like to give away, THE RESPONSIBILITY”

When this definition is applied, the reverse happens – as it’s very different to what many think delegation is about. In effect, it’s all about giving those employees who are delegated the responsibility to carry out, what is to become an important compliance issue for your business, the authority to act. It’s this authority to take whatever action to protect your business, while at the same time, leaving you with the final responsibility for the actions. Interesting is it not?

So where to from here?

The following are a number of points to consider if you are delegating the responsibility of health and safety for your business.

External help?

Consider employing an external and experienced H&S provider on a part-time or on a short term contract to set up and to manage your health and safety. Employ them also to train and coach an employee in H&S management at the same time.

If this is not an option,

  1. Select an employee or ask for expressions of interest from employees who have an interest in the topic of H&S.
  2. Amend their employment agreement and job description to include the new role. Also consider any additional remuneration.
  3. Clearly state the responsibilities, accountabilities and reporting requirements for the position.
  4. Document and clearly state the employee’s authorities to act on H&S matters on your behalf that could impact on personnel or the company.
  5. One of their responsibilities should be the direct reporting to the management or the board of directors with written reports on a monthly basis.
  6. Identify what training, skills, H&S experience or qualifications they have to have for the position.
  7. Plan for the training to ensure that they are competent to fulfil this role for the commercial risk management of the business.
  8. Set a budget for the H&S management of the company. It can’t work on fresh air or hope.
  9. As an appointed H&S representative, the employer is required to allow time for the representative to be provided with H&S training by an approved provider. Section 19 of the current HSE Act and part 3 of the pending 2015 H&S at Work Act.
  10. Work out what time is allocated or allowed for the H&S functions to be carried out effectively.
  11. What hardcopy systems, supporting documentation or software programs are in place or available for the employee to carry out the function effectively to save time and cost?  For an effective and proven option, try our free 30 day free trial of the Hasmate web based compliance management program to manage your health and safety systems.
  12. Inform all your employees directly of your selection and introduce the employee. Don’t put out a notice. My experience tells me that as the business owner or manager, if you personally introduce the employee, the other employees get the message that you are committed and mean business in the matter of health and safety.


Like a game of rugby, no game is ever effective unless you have a set of goal posts or markers to aim for and to measure progress. I believe it would be irresponsible to give the health and safety ball a backward under arm flick to a minor employee without the skills to catch the S ball.

Select them, train them, get them fit for the position, and then set the goal and measurable objectives with them. Monitor and measure the effect and impact of the game plan as part of your management plans on a regular basis.