COR SPECIAL: Letter of the Chain Of Responsibility law

By: Andrew Hobbs


With Heavy Vehicle National Law reforms to change the way COR works on Monday, ATN takes a detailed look in this newsletter at what it means

COR SPECIAL: Letter of the Chain Of Responsibility law
New industry codes of practice may play a role in how you work to ensure the safety of members of your supply chain.

 

In the last article of our three-part series, we look at the role industry codes might play in your business, as well as what executive reporting guidelines you might wish to introduce and how to monitor your supply chain’s compliance with those guidelines and others.

The new Chain of Responsibility (COR) rules create a new primary duty of responsibility for each party in the supply chain – including those involved in the management of an organisation.

Last month, we looked at the types of policies companies might introduce in order to meet these new requirements – carrying out a risk assessment to see what needs to be addressed, and finding ways to eliminate or suppress those risks where possible. But new industry codes of practice may also play a role in how you work to ensure the safety of members of your supply chain – even if you do not choose to adopt them entirely.

INDUSTRY CODES

Any individual, group, or corporation can develop a registered industry code of practice (RICP), but the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) must approve it before it can qualify for registration under the HVNL.

Once this occurs, the codes are published on the NHVR website and made freely available to anyone who wishes to use them – subject to terms of use.

The NHVR is currently completing its final assessment of an RICP developed by the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) and the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), which the organisations hope can apply to all heavy vehicle operators and their supply chain partners.

Public consultation for the industry master code, developed by the ATA and ALC’s joint company Safe Trucking and Supply Chains Ltd, closed on July 31 for the NHVR’s consideration.


Read Part 1, looking at changes to the HVNL that could impact your preparations for the new chain of responsibility regime, here


When carrying out its assessment, the NHVR tries to make sure the code has industry-specific guidelines on how to conduct a risk assessment, as well as canvassing a range of control measures.

These codes should identify common COR risks within an industry and should outline best practice guidelines, principles, and procedures for dealing with them, regardless of whether the user is in a small business or a large corporation.

For example, the draft industry master code has chapters dedicated to the COR compliance components – speeding, fatigue, vehicle standards and mass, dimension, and loading – as well as outlining how to develop a risk management process and how that process can be documented.

There are sections in each of the COR component chapters dedicated to the risk itself and what one’s legal obligations are, as well as suggestions about what a company might do to minimise or eradicate the risk, and why.

The NHVR says that by using an RICP, companies can develop better ways of meeting their safety obligations, thus allocating their resources more effectively and improving their safety culture and performance. They can also be used by a company as a sign of what is "reasonably practicable" to do in order to mitigate a risk – meaning that adherence to an RICP may be a defence in a court of law.

However, even if they adopt an RICP, businesses would still need to demonstrate that they properly assessed any risks and applied the appropriate remedies if questioned by inspectors. In other words, adopting an RICP will not meet your COR obligations if your policies and procedures are not followed, while a company may also easily meet its obligations without referring to an RICP at all.

EXECUTIVE REPORTING

How transport companies will ensure their executives are able to monitor compliance with company policies will be a challenge for many into the future. Not only will they need to ensure that the right people have been trained to the right standard, but that all parties to the supply chain continue to adhere to those standards.

In order to do this, executives must keep tabs on any issues that arise – whether they be one-off incidents where a procedure was not followed, a near-miss, or something more serious. This may be done through random spot checks or periodic internal or third party audits – but however it is done, the results of these checks should be reported to the executive at regular intervals.


Read Part 2, looking at how companies can develop policies and contracts to help ensure their obligations are met, here


Over a set period of time – somewhere between one and three months – an executive should know how many non-compliance issues arose, whether there were any unusual spikes in their frequency, and who or what was responsible.

You may wish to develop reporting measures for each COR component – counting and judging the severity of HVNL breaches or near misses in mass, dimension, load restraint, speed, fatigue, and vehicle maintenance. It is important that all incidents of non-compliance be recorded – even if they are found well before a vehicle hits the road – as they represent an issue that may require further attention into the future.

The executive will also need to know whether the issue was addressed satisfactorily and what is being done about it if not. To do this effectively, an executive should get directly involved – while they may create a safety or compliance group to complete these assessments and report to them, under the COR changes an executive cannot delegate their duty of responsibility to another party.

NatRoad points out that, under Work Health and Safety laws, you are also required to consult with your workers on health and safety before making decisions that affect them.

It is the executive’s duty to make sure that the company takes proper steps to reduce risks to safety – meaning they must not only be properly informed about what those risks are, but about the effectiveness of the company’s procedures for dealing with them. After all, if the procedure followed proves not to be the best way of eliminating or reducing risks, then the procedure needs to change – and this too is a decision for the executive to make.

DOCUMENTING CHANGES

Managing safety at work has always come with its share of record-keeping – ranging from drug and alcohol test results to licensing records, checklists for roadworthiness, logbooks – the list goes on.

You should regularly audit your own records and those of your subcontractors to verify the currency and accuracy of those licences, registrations, service histories, and roadworthiness reports. Further to this, a company’s standard record-keeping practices should include the archiving of information about any steps taken to address safety issues.

As the COR changes to the HVNL come into effect, it will become more important that you are able to provide written records to show that your employees and sub-contractors are compliant with your own policies and those of other parties in your supply chain. This will include your near-miss register and the results of any safety audits, as well as copies of consignment notes, with details of the mass and load checks completed by drivers and other parties. But it will also include records of the policies and procedures themselves, as well as records of any ongoing training that you have provided – and to whom you provided it.

Remember that records dealing with sensitive information, such as drug and alcohol test results, medical screening tests, and driving history checks, require additional care be taken in record-keeping for the sake of privacy.

The amount of time you need to keep these records and other documents will depend on the type of information they contain – for example, under the HVNL, all work diary records must be kept for three years after they are created.

Under changes to the HVNL, the NHVR and authorised officers in state transport authorities are able to require your drivers to produce records on the spot that demonstrate their compliance with the HVNL. This means you will have a greater need to access this information quickly – not only for authorities, but also to produce when tendering for work and to show future contractors and supply chain partners.

CONCLUSION

Some companies have spent almost two years preparing their safety management systems for the COR changes to the HVNL, set to come into effect on October 1.

In many cases, the policies and procedures we have discussed will already be in place, aided by the NHVR itself or other industry organisations that set out to help their members understand these new obligations.

But some oversights or breakdowns in communication are inevitable – particularly when there are many different parties in a supply chain, and not all can reasonably be gathered together.

The new COR laws deliberately spread the responsibility for safety across the supply chain, away from only the people on the ground – and it is crucial that every member of the supply chain not only knows that, but is able to make their views known.

Making sure that all in your supply chain have both that freedom and that ability is among the most important things you can do to ensure your duty of responsibility and other obligations are met going forward.

Good luck.

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