Legal Role and Responsibilities of the Section 16(1) (CEO) and Section 16(2) Appointees as Stipulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The primary responsibility for ensuring a safe and healthy work environment is placed on the Chief Executive Officer or person deemed to be the Chief Executive Officer of the organisation. The OHS Act defines the Chief Executive Officer as follows:
“In relation to a body corporate or an enterprise conducted by the state, means the person who is responsible for the overall management and control of the business of such body corporate or enterprise.” (Based on Legislation in section 1, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act) Under Section 16 of the OHS Act, the Chief Executive Officer is charged with certain duties and responsibilities.
Section 16: Chief executive officer charged with certain duties
(1) Every chief executive officer shall as far as is reasonably practicable, ensure that the duties of his employer, as contemplated in this Act, are properly discharged.
(2) Without derogating from his responsibility or liability in terms of subsection (1), a chief executive officer may assign any duty contemplated in the said subsection, to any person under his control, which person shall act subject to the control and directions of the chief executive officer.
(3) The provisions of subsection (1) shall not, subject to the provisions of section 37, relieve an employer of any responsibility or liability under this Act.
(4) For the purpose of subsection (1), the head of department of any department of State shall be deemed to be the chief executive officer of that department.
Based on Legislation in section 16, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act
Proposed legal hierarchy according to section 16 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act:
Section 16(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, appoints the CEO of the business or body corporate as the accountable person, responsible to provide and maintain a safe and healthy work environment that is without risk to employees and others.
Section 37 of the same Act stipulates that whenever an employee does or omits to do any act, which would be an offence for the employer of such employee to do or omit to do, the CEO would be seen the accountable person.
Without derogating from this responsibility or liability, the CEO may however delegate safety and health related responsibilities to the management of the business or organisation. In terms of this appointment, the Section 16(2) appointee(s) will then be responsible for the management of occupational health and safety matters at the designated area of appointment.
After appointment they will be legally bound to help and assist the CEO (Section 16(1)) with safety management over these designated areas. Remember that a person may delegate responsibility but not accountability.
The intention of the legislator is to enforce an official legal structure within the organisation. These prescribed structures largely assist with the proper delegation of health and safety responsibilities within the business environment. (Based on Legislation in section 16 and section 37, of the Occupational Health and Safety Act)
To facilitate effective safety management within the business or organisation, the roles and responsibilities of the above mentioned persons should be clearly defined, documented and communicated. In order to meet this responsibility, Section 16(1) and (2) appointees should familiarize themselves with all statutory requirements stipulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations.