Opinion: What COR actually means

By: Denise Zumpe


More rigour and accuracy is needed when Chain of Responsibility is addressed

Opinion: What COR actually means
Denise Zumpe

 

Barely any edition of ATN arrives these days without several references to Chain of Responsibility (COR).

We are 18 months down the track since the introduction of the primary safety duties under Chapter 1 of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

They are here to stay.

Paul Davies of the National Transport Commission (NTC) has confirmed that they will form part of the revised HVNL, no matter what else might change.

However, the term ‘COR’ has become the catchall phrase for anything and everything to do with safety, is one of the most misunderstood terms in the transport industry and is used well outside of the original scope in the HVNL.

It has also created unnecessary complexity and confusion about where the roles and responsibilities of party’s in the chain begin and end.

GOING VIRAL

The events of 2020 are placing unexpected financial pressure on the supply chain, making it more important than ever to have access to reliable and consistent information to support a productive and safe transport industry.

Sadly, there is so much misinformation about COR, including fearmongering which threatens jail terms and million-dollar fines to convince supply chain parties to implement systems that don’t necessarily improve safety and in some cases actually increase liability.

Some 12 months ago, the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) confirmed that advice and systems promoting excessive enquiry into other parties in the supply chains risk management is not only not necessary but counterproductive and may increase liability.

It is time for supply chain parties to develop a common understanding and approach to the principles of shared responsibilities.

All parties must work together, take ownership for their own risks and manage them to form an unbroken chain of risk management across the heavy vehicle transport industry.


Read Denise Zumpe's take in industry assurance schemes, here


Sue Bottrell is a practicing lawyer and certified safety professional, specialising in the field of contractor management and safety.

Bottrell regularly speaks at safety and transport conferences about the roles and duties of parties engaging contractors and the contracted party, based on case law, the same case law quoted by the NHVR regarding the shared responsibilities.

She is also representing the Australian Institute of Health and Safety in the review of the HVNL being undertaken by the NTC.

Bottrell has made it her goal to ensure that the transport industry has access to expert advice to apply the HVNL in everyday business interactions.

Asked what advice she gives to supply chain parties to manage risks and comply with the safety duties, Bottrell says there are two areas to focus on.

First, forget ‘reasonable steps’, ‘taking all reasonable steps’ and ‘the reasonable steps defence’. It no longer applies and needs to be banished from the supply chain vernacular. Parties now have a duty to "eliminate or reduce risk so far as is reasonably practicable".

Supply chain parties would be wise to question compliance advice from anyone says you need to take all reasonable steps.

Second, look at your own operations and manage risks you pose to the safe operation of a heavy vehicle.

The introduction of the term ‘reasonable practicability’ has done away with everyone looking at everyone else.

What you need to focus on is your own business and how you can cause a heavy vehicle to be operated. Make sure your own back yard is in order and stop looking over the fence. Parties in the chain are entitled to rely on the expertise of other service providers in carrying their element of the transport task.

For example, if you engage a transport carrier you can rely on them to manage their trucks, and drivers. Any advice to the contrary is questionable, a waste of time and counterproductive.

Developing a common and consistent understanding of the duties and concepts underpinning the principle of shared responsibility and the scope of the COR will benefit the safety and productivity of all parties in the chain and reduce unnecessary costs, at a time when cash flow and control of costs is of critical importance

Denise Zumpe is a qualified and experienced consultant with practical industry knowledge in work health and safety and heavy vehicle safety and compliance, establishing SafeSense Workplace Safety in 2010

 

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