Opinion

Chain of Responsibility protects everyone

The aim of CoR provisions in the HVNL (and equivalent laws in WA and NT) is to ensure that everyone in the supply chain actively prevents safety breaches and aligns transport safety law, with the concept of “duty of care” underpinning Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) law.

Complying with the law is a shared responsibility and all parties in the transport supply chain are responsible. It is also a shared cost. 

A reputable transport company cannot exclude the cost of maintaining the systems, checks and time to ensure that the standards of operation meet those set out by the CoR legislation.

Customers of transport companies across Australia, be they importers, exporters, freight forwarders, wholesalers, retailers, or manufacturers, are also defined in the CoR provisions of the law given their roles in the supply chain. These roles include being a consignor/dispatcher, packer, loader, scheduler, consignee/receiver, or loading manager for freight.

Breaches of the law can incur large penalties with up to five years imprisonment and $300,000 fines for individuals, or $3 million for corporations.   

One of the most important safety strategies for companies seeking to protect their CoR interests is to engage transport providers who have a good safety and compliance reputation, and clear safety management policies and processes.

Using the container transport sector as an example, mis-declarations of container weights and not knowing how the cargo inside the shipping container is packed and internally restrained can lead to heightened safety risks.

Reputable container transport operators implement policies and procedures to mitigate these risks.  These include close communication with customers and others in the logistics chain on actual declared container weights, procedures to ensure that heavy vehicles are not overloaded (i.e., are within gross mass and individual axle mass limits), and driver training in safe vehicle operations, including appropriate heavy vehicle speed for the conditions. Safe container packing and unpacking are important also.     

Be aware though that good safety culture, training, policies, procedures, and auditing come at a considerable cost.  

All operators should have a Safety Management System that provides working standards, direction, accountability and transparency to ensure that all links in the supply chain are responsible.

It is expected that most transport companies now employ dedicated safety and compliance managers, have robust safety management systems in place, have recognised safety accreditations, train their staff thoroughly in safety compliance, and are subjected to exacting internal and external safety audits.

Safety in the workplace is paramount. It does not stop at the transport operators’ gate but starts with the consignor and owner of the freight. All links in the supply chain are responsible and to ensure that accidents in the workplace, on the road and in public do not happen.

The Victorian Transport Association recommends that owners of freight and customers ensure their carrier has recognised their CoR responsibilities, has Safety Management Systems in place and has invested in the necessary systems to ensure a safe workplace.

More information including a Gap Assessment Tool can be found at the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator website: www.nhvr.gov.au or contact the Victorian Transport Association at any time.

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