Posted on: December 12, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

Some management functions are delegated, but legal accountability is never delegated, SA Labour director Tibor Szana warned health and safety leaders.

SA Department of Labour Inspection and Enforcement Services director of Explosives, Major Hazards Installations (MHIs) and Construction, Tibor Szana, explained Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act provisions on health and safety management at OHS Summit Africa conference in Sandton, Johannesburg, in November 2011.

Szana also discussed legal provisions for self regulation, synergy between safety leadership and delegation, what functions could be delegated to employees, and how far delegation could go down a chain of command, in terms of functional appointments provided for in OHS Act sections.

“Delegation comes at a high price”, said Szana. “Are you prepared to carry the load in the interest of health and safety?”

OHS Act Section 8 appointment of CEOs

Chief executive officers (CEOs) are charged with certain duties in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act in Section 8; ‘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.’

OHS Act Section 16 appointments by CEOs

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’.

Provisions of subsection (1) shall not, subject to provisions of Section 37, relieve an employer of any responsibility or liability under the OHS Act.

Duties that may be assigned to any employee must be in terms of the OHS Act, that is, duties that the employer would have been required to perform. It is not acceptable for an employer to assign duties to an employee by stating merely that they ‘must ensure compliance with the Act’, that would be too general, ridiculous, and not the intention of this legislation. Employers must know what is done in terms of health and safety on their premises.

OHS Act Section 14 duties of employees

Employees (workers) legally have several general duties at work;
• Take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions;
• regarding any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by the Act, co-operate with such employer or person to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with;
• carry out any lawful order given to him, and obey the health and safety rules and procedures laid down by his employer or by anyone authorised thereto by his employer, in the interest of health or safety;
• if any situation which is unsafe or unhealthy comes to his attention, as soon as practicable report such situation to his employer or to the health and safety representative for his workplace or section thereof, as the case may be, who shall report it to the employer;
• if he is involved in any incident which may affect his health or which has caused an injury to himself, report such incident to his employer or to anyone authorised thereto by the employer, or to his health and safety representative, as soon as practicable but not later than the end of the particular shift during which the incident occurred, unless the circumstances were such that the reporting of the incident was not possible, in which case he shall report the incident as soon as practicable thereafter.

Szana explained that delegated line management functions could be imposed on employees by a CEO, or a designated person, but such functions are in addition to statutory functions placed on every employee.

Internal responsibility and self regulation

There are many advantages to recognising and adopting an internal responsibility system that;
• places responsibility for controlling hazards on those in the workplace, making everyone a contributor to workplace health and safety
• applies everyone’s knowledge to improve health and safety [conditions and practice]
• is better suited to developing solutions for each workplace than traditional ‘command and control’ systems
• encourages management and workers to take joint action to identify and control hazards through co-management of health and safety
• promotes cooperation and motivates everyone to protect their health and safety and that of their fellow workers.

The OHS Act requires self regulation, and helped to usher in the age of self regulation and joint responsibility, by providing for workplace forums and other measures.

Statutory functions and mechanisms like OHS representatives and OHS Committees are enforced by law, and are to be established through appointments, but carry no accountability for their actions.

While certain functions are delegated, the onus remains on employers to perform those statutory functions, or ensure that statutory functions are performed.

Individual duties of managers are different from individual duties supervisors, which in turn are different from individual workers’ duties, but taken together, a safe and healthy workplace must be achieved and maintained.

Everyone is accountable individually for carrying out their responsibilities. Greater authority comes with greater accountability.

Managers with formal authority at work may delegate responsibility and authority to others to perform certain work, but they cannot delegate their individual accountability to ensure the work is carried out safely. The legislation is clear that in the event of a reportable incident, every person that is deemed relevant, especially supervisors, managers and CEOs, could be called to account for the areas in which they are accountable.

The OHS Act and related health and safety legislation prescribes these major duties for management, supervisors, workers, OHS committees and OHS representatives.

Workplace responsibilities

Management is responsible for:
–providing a safe and healthy workplace including the necessary equipment, systems, and tools which are properly maintained
–providing information, training, instruction and supervision, and facilities to protect the health and safety of workers
–establishing, supporting and consulting with OHS committees and OHS representatives on all matters to improve workplace health and safety, including regular safety inspections of the workplace.

Supervisors are responsible for:
–knowing and complying with health and safety requirements
–ensuring that workers under their direction know and comply with HS requirements
–ensuring workers under their direction receive adequate supervision.

Workers are responsible for:
–cooperating with management, supervisors, and the OHS committee or OHS representative
–following safe work practices and procedures and using safeguards and personal protective equipment
–reporting hazards (such as unsafe situations and activities) to their supervisor immediately.

Leadership definitions

Some common ideas in leadership definitions include ‘exerting influence, motivating and inspiring, helping others realize their potential, leading by example, selflessness and making a difference’.

The Collins English Dictionary defines leadership as 1. Position or function of a leader. 2. Period during which a person occupies the position of leader, for example, “during her leadership very little was achieved”. 3a. Ability to lead. 3b. (as modifier): leadership qualities. 4. Leaders as a group of a party, union, etc.

This dictionary definition of leadership focuses on position (singular or collective), tenure, and ability. But it misses key points about the purpose and hallmarks of effective leadership.

Management guru Peter Drucker, in ‘The Leader of the Future’, writes; “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” To gain followers requires influence, but does not exclude lack of integrity in achieving this.

Several of the world’s greatest leaders have lacked integrity and have adopted values not shared by many people today.

John C Maxwell, in ‘21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’, writes of “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Indirectly, it requires character, since without maintaining integrity and trustworthiness, capability to influence will disappear.

Warren Bennis writes of individual capability of a leader ; “Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realise your own leadership potential.”

Two keys to leadership

According to a study by the Hay Group, a global management consultancy, there are 75 key components of employee satisfaction (Lamb, McKee, 2004);

• Trust and confidence in top leadership was the single most reliable predictor of employee satisfaction in an organisation.

• Effective communication by leadership in three critical areas was the key to winning organisational trust and confidence: Helping employees understand company strategy, how they contribute to achieving objectives, and sharing information on how the company is doing and how an employee’s own division is doing.

Health and safety leadership

In occupational health and safety, top executives define health and safety and therefore define occupational health and safety culture in an organisation. To fail at this level is to fail at health and safety at all levels.

Delegation definitions

Delegation is to empower someone else to act for you. Delegation involves conferring some of your functions or powers on another.

Delegation therefore is problematic for many small business people, since delegation involves giving some control away.

Many business people believe that no one else could perform their functions as well as they, therefore again business structure and nature is resistant to delegation.

Managers and team leaders delegating, remain involved in legal terms; see OHS Act Section 16(2). However, the extent of involvement varies, depending on knowledge and skills levels of employees receiving delegation.

If an employee delegated is very experienced, the manager’s involvement would be minimal. If an employee delegated is inexperienced, the manager may provide more support, as delegation is clearly treated as a development exercise.

The person receiving the delegation decides what has to be done to achieve the desired result, but the level of guidance provided by the manager or team leader varies.

Delegating means authorising

Delegating means authorising someone to do something in your place. A politician may appoint someone take care of certain types of issues so they could focus on policy or strategy. Delegation is good, since it can allow one person to oversee many more things, providing more time to focus on bigger issues.

Delegating could also hinder things, since delegators may find themselves over-tasked by overseeing too many things. No matter how much you delegate to someone, you always hold responsibility for those functions.

• This report is an extract from a set of slides and verbal presentation.
• SHEQafrica.com is the web media partner of OHS Summit Africa, hosted by FlemmingGulf.

PHOTO; SA Department of Labour Inspection and Enforcement Services director of Explosives, Major Hazards Installations (MHIs) and Construction, Tibor Szana, spoke at OHS Summit Africa in Sandton, Johannesburg, in November 2011.

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