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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Local government: officer definition

Local government: officer definition
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New Zealand

Simpson Grierson partner Samantha Turner says there has been "some angst" over how far the HSW Act's definition of officer extends in a local government context.

Speaking at a health and safety briefing in Auckland for local government managers and politicians (organised by SOLGM and LGNZ), she said there was no doubt that elected councillors and the chief executive were officers, but what about the senior leadership team?

Turner said some councils might decide they want all their senior managers treated as officers anyway, so councillors, the chief executive and the senior team were all aligned on health and safety. "An officer is not about becoming operational. It is still a governance role. An officer may rely on information, advice and the activities of others, but must be able to demonstrate this advice is reasonable."

(At this point a delegate interjected that arguing over who would and wouldn't be an officer was getting "too legalistic", because every staff member had a degree of influence over health and safety and needs to use it.)

Going through the six due diligence duties for officers, Turner noted that the duty to ensure appropriate resources were made available means an assessment must be based on need, and not on the council's budget or the politics of the day. "In local government you don't have a board all trying to steer the company in one direction. You have elected politicians."

She also put up a theoretical scenario, suggesting that a WorkSafe inspector could conceivably issue an improvement notice against an elected councillor for not complying with his or her due diligence duties under the Act - a suggestion which WorkSafe's speaker at the event, GM communications John Tulloch, said he would seek clarification on.

He said WorkSafe recognised there might be council structures that don't perfectly fit the formula whereby only the elected councillors and the chief executive would be officers. "We acknowledge that might be a grey area and I'll take that back to our policy people for clarification."

People Mentioned:
John Tulloch; Samantha Turner
Organisations Mentioned:
SOLGM; LGNZ; Simpson Grierson; WorkSafe NZ
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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