NTC puts onus on corporate sector to lift road safety

NTC asks business to lend its muscle to improving road safety, including agreeing to national scheme that sets acceptable standards

NTC puts onus on corporate sector to lift road safety
NTC puts obligation on corporate sector to lift road safety
By Brad Gardner | August 2, 2011

The corporate sector is being asked to lend its muscle toward improving road safety in Australia, including signing up to a national scheme mandating acceptable standards and auditing systems.

Released today, the National Transport Commission’s (NTC) A Corporate Approach to Transport Safety Discussion Paper, seeks feedback from the business community on how it can work collaboratively with government to achieve the ambitious target set out in the National Road Safety Strategy.

The strategy, agreed to by transport ministers earlier this year, aims to cut the number of road deaths and injuries in Australia by 30 percent over the 10 years from 2011 to 2020.

The NTC says the corporate sector, including transport operators, transport users and businesses relying on road transport, can play a key role in influencing safety.

NTC Chairman Greg Martin says the organisation is committed to assessing the feasibility of a national program built around the ‘safe systems’ approach and incorporating elements from existing initiatives.

"This may include the introduction of standards, auditable safety management programs, codes of practice and collaborative strategic development," Martin says.

The safe systems approach argues that all parties have a shared responsibility for road safety. The discussion paper says the approach is built on the notion that safe drivers and riders using safe vehicles and travelling on safe roads at safe speeds will reduce the impact and severity of injuries.

"It also recognises that even with a focus on prevention, crashes will occur, so their impacts need to be reduced through road system design," the NTC document says.

The discussion paper says road crashes cause some 1,400 deaths and 32,500 serious injuries in Australia each year.

The NTC wants stakeholders to address key questions, namely how can corporate influence be applied to improve safety, what sort of government intervention is necessary and what needs to be done to ensure a national scheme is credible and delivers benefits.

It also asks respondents to list their major road safety concerns or risks, their motivations to be involved in road safety and if they see any value in participating in an auditable safety management program.

The paper lists existing practices that could be drawn on to create a national framework, including the National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme, TruckSafe and the UK’s RoadSafe system, which requires companies to complete case studies demonstrating a commitment to work-related road safety.

The NTC also refers to an Australian and New Zealand specification standard that helps companies audit and review their occupational health and safety systems.

Furthermore, it highlights the European Commission’s road safety charter that outlines 10 principles organisations must sign and commit to.

"The best elements of each program can be used to develop a framework that is effective, suited to the Australia road network, compliant with the Safe Systems approach to road safety and that meets the objectives of the National Road Safety Strategy," the NTC says.

"The NTC is seeking information on what private sector organisations can and are willing to do to contribute to meeting the National Road Safety Strategy targets."

In a bid to get corporations to sign up, the NTC says a national approach could include measures so businesses can benchmark their performance against others, annual awards to reward high achievers and recognition for those who take a proactive stance on safety.

"Research has shown that workplaces with more proactive safety cultures and extensive safety management practices have fewer safety incidences and crashes," the NTC says.

"Companies’ road safety achievements need to be recognised and preferred by customers and employees."

The discussion paper points out barriers to involvement in safety management schemes, including a belief within sections of the corporate sector that road safety is a government responsibility and that they are too expensive for small businesses to invest in.

NTC CEO Nick Dimopoulos says corporate involvement in road safety will greatly enhance the prospects of cutting the number of deaths and injuries.

With governments declaring a commitment to reduce deaths and injuries by 30 percent, he says it is now time for business to consider its role.

"We’re keen to work collaboratively with the corporate sector to develop a national program that supports and encourages corporates to exert their influence over the way that the road network is used to make life safer for all Australian road users," Dimopoulos says.

He says businesses stand to benefit from signing up to a national scheme by way of customer loyalty, a more skilled workforce and greater brand recognition.

"Businesses can identify and act on things entirely within their control that don’t require governments to act first and don’t require regulatory change, but will improve road safety."

A series of public information sessions will be held on the discussion paper, and the NTC is urging industry bodies, companies and individuals to make submissions to the process.

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