Designation of authorised officers and appointment of environmental health officers

What is an authorised officer?

An authorised officer is a person or class of persons who are designated the authority to administer and enforce provisions of the Act on behalf of the enforcement agency [section 24].

 The Act enables an enforcement agency to designate as an authorised officer:

environmental health officers, as appointed under the Act; or
persons who are not appointed environmental health officers, but who possess other appropriate qualifications and experience to perform particular functions under the Act or other Acts; or
a mixture of both.

Who is responsible for designating a person as an authorised officer? [section 24]

It is the responsibility of the enforcement agency (the local government) to designate persons or a class of persons as authorised officers [section 24].

Who is responsible for keeping a record of authorised officers designated by the local government? [section 27]

Local government must prepare and maintain a list of designated authorised officers [section 27]. Although it is not specified in the Act, it is recommended that the list includes:
  • the person’s name 
  • persons job title
  • qualifications and experience that were considered in their designation 
  • date of designation 
  • specify the Acts and provisions of the Acts the designation relates to
  • listed any conditions or restrictions of designation
The maintenance of a list of authorised officers may form part of the local government annual reporting requirements to the Chief Health Officer [section 22].

Can two or more local governments designate the same authorised officer? [section 24(4)]

Two or more local governments may jointly designate a person or classes of persons as authorised officers [section 24(4)]. Unfortunately the person must be issued with separate certificate of authority cards for each enforcement agency.

Appointment of environmental health officers [section 17]

Any person appointed as an environmental health officer under section 17 of the Public Health Act must have at least one of the qualifications and/or experience approved and gazetted by the Chief Health Officer under section 18

The appointment of an EHO is the responsibility of local government and does not need to be in writing. The appointment can be done in accordance with whatever process is used by a local government for employing staff. 

A person appointed as an environmental health officer under section 17 of the Public Health Act may be designated as an authorised officer in writing and be issued with a certificate of authority.

Persons who are not environmental health officers [section 25]

An enforcement agency may designate as an authorised officer persons who are not also an appointed environmental health officer in accordance with section 25 of the Public Health Act. This can be done if the enforcement agency considers the person has appropriate qualifications and experience to perform the particular functions that they will be designated to perform. The Act enables an enforcement agency to specify conditions or restrictions to which the person’s authority is subject, based on their qualifications and experience.

Although an enforcement agency has the discretion to assess what will constitute appropriate qualifications and experience, when making these designations an enforcement agency must have regard to any Chief Health Officer guidelines issued under section 29 of the Public Health Act.

As the Act is being implemented in a staged manner, the Chief Health Officer guidelines under section 29 will initially require that persons designated as authorised officers should:
  • hold a qualification approved by the Chief Health Officer under section 18 of the Public Health Act; or
  • have been previously approved by the Executive Director, Public Health to be appointed as an environmental health officer, under the Health Act 1911; or 
  • hold qualifications and experience approved by the Western Australian Environmental Health Officers Professional Review Board.

As new subsidiary legislation under the Public Health Act is implemented, these guidelines will be updated to include other qualifications and experience.
It is strongly recommended that during the implementation phase of the Public Health Act an enforcement agency follows the Chief Health Officer guidelines on the qualifications and experience for the designation of persons who are not appointed environmental health officers, as authorised officers.

Issuing a certificate of authority [section 30]

An authorised officer must be issued with, and show evidence on request, of their authorisation under the Act. This is achieved by issuing any person who is authorised under the Public Health Act with a ‘Certificate of Authority’ card. 

Section 30(2) sets out the requirements for the content of the certificate which must contain the following information:
(a) state that it is issued under the Act
(b) state the name of the person to whom it is issued and bear a photograph or digital image of that person and the person’s signature
(c) state the date, if any, on which it expires
(d) specify
a. the Acts or provisions of the Acts for the purposes of which the person is designated as an authorised officer
b. any provisions of an Act that are excluded from the designation
(e) specify any conditions or restrictions to which the person’s authority is subject; and
(f) bear the signature of the person by whom it is issued and state the capacity in which the person is acting in issuing the certificate.

Where necessary, a local government may issue an authorised officer with a temporary certificate of authority. This must comply with all of the above criteria other than the photograph/digital image and/or the designated authorised officer’s signature. A temporary certificate of authority is valid for a period not exceeding one month.

An authorised officer must carry their certificate of authority cards with them. If asked to show their ID card (section 30(3)) and he or she cannot, the authorised officer cannot exercise the relevant powers of the Act.

Consolidating authority cards [section 31(3)]

If a person is designated as an authorised officer for the purposes of another written law, and that other written law requires the officer to also be issued with a certificate or other document evidencing their identity or appointment, section 31(3) of the Act provides the ability for the authorised officer to consolidate these identity cards into the one identify card.

Temporary certificate of authority card [section 30(4) and 30(5)]

Where necessary, an enforcement agency may issue a temporary certificate of authority card. This must comply with all of the content criteria other than the requirement for a photograph/digital image and/or the person’s signature. A temporary certificate of authority may only be issued once and may be valid for a maximum period of one month. The temporary certificate has the same effect as an ordinary certificate of authority.

Specifying provisions of an Act on a certificate of authority [section 30(d)]

The enforcement agency is required to specify the Acts and provisions of those Acts for the purposes of which that officer is designated to perform. 

Example wording: “The authorised officer is so designated for the purposes conferred by:
(i) Part 6, 9, 14, 16 of the Public Health Act 2016
(ii) Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1911
(iii) Food Act 2008

Note: The certificate of authority does not need to reference subsidiary legislation, as a reference to an Act includes its subsidiary legislation. However, if an enforcement agency believes an authorised officer should be restricted from enforcing specific regulations; this may be listed as a condition or restriction in accordance with section 30(2)(e).

Specifying conditions or restrictions [section 30(e)]

The main parts of the Public Health Act that authorised officers must be designated for, and may need to be restricted on a certificate of authority depending on the persons experience include:
  • Part 8 – Registration and licensing
  • Part 9 – Notifiable infectious diseases and related conditions
  • Part 14 – Improvement notices and enforcement orders
  • Part 16 – Powers of entry, inspection and seizure

Example certificate of authority

An example certificate of authority template is available on the non-prescribed forms section of this website.

This is not a prescribed form, and can be modified to suit local government’s requirements, as long as it contains the content specified in section 30(2).

Revoking or ceasing of a designation [section 28]

Any person designated to be an authorised officer by a local government ceases to be an authorised officer if the designation of the person is revoked or ceases to have effect [section 28]. 

An enforcement agency may revoke a designation in writing [section 32]

Where an authorised officer’s designation is revoked or ceases to have effect, the officer is required to return their certificate of authority to the local government as soon as practicable [section 32].

Useful resource

The Designation of authorised officer factsheet Stage 3 (PDF 200kb) released at stage 3 of implementation of the Public Health Act provides additional information on the requirements for local government to designate authorised officer following the 24 January 2017 when stage 3 was proclaimed.