Are you aware of the changes to Chain of Responsibility (CoR) laws, and how they may affect your business?
On 1 October 2018, the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) was amended to align more closely with work health and safety legislation, and to ensure that every party in the heavy vehicle transport supply chain clearly understands the chain of responsibility (CoR) in conducting transport activities safely.
The change in CoR law aims to ensure that everyone in the supply chain shares responsibility for identifying breaches of the HVNL, and that you (and your employees) exercise the appropriate level of control or influence for transport tasks or activities as part of the chain of responsibility.
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator states that in practical terms, this primary duty represents an obligation to eliminate or minimise potential harm or loss (risk) by doing all that is reasonably practicable to ensure safety – and that legal liability applies to all parties for their actions – or inaction – in ensuring compliance with the HVNL.
What this means is that multiple parties can be responsible for offences committed by the drivers and operators of heavy vehicles, and that an individual may have responsibilities in the supply chain in multiple ways – for example, your duties as an employer, operator and consigner of goods.
Each individual in the supply chain must, therefore, ensure that their actions do not result in, encourage or reward breaches of road safety law – particularly in the key areas of speeding, fatigue management, mass, dimension, vehicle standards (maintenance) and load restraints.
The 2018 amendments to the CoR law affects almost 200,000 Australian businesses, employers and workers that make up the national heavy vehicle supply chain – from transportation and maintenance, to construction, management, and indeed every industry within the supply chain. The new changes include:
- New primary duty penalties – new penalties have been introduced across three categories, including a maximum five years’ imprisonment, $300,000 fine for individuals or $3 million fine for businesses/corporations.
- Executive officer liability – a duty has been imposed on all Executive Officers to exercise due diligence in ensuring that their business or corporation complies with its duties under the amended HVNL. A breach of this duty may result in executive officers being held personally liable, even if the company has not committed an actual offence.
- Legal duty – in terms of determining liability and the defence of actions taken in possible breaches of the HVNL, amendments to the CoR have been made so that if an individual or business has undertaken all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the HVNL, they will be judged by what is reasonably practical for that business, rather than by a standardised checklist of reasonable steps.
- Aligning CoR more closely with WHS legislation – many aspects of your existing WHS system can now be adapted as part of your CoR management, including – risk assessments, safe work procedures, training needs analyses, incident registers and compliance reporting frameworks. However, be aware that under CoR, you have greater responsibility for the conduct of other parties within the supply chain and for the conduct of persons off-site (as opposed to WHS, where you are essentially responsible only for your workers and visitors/contractors on your site).
- Industry codes – any registered industry codes must provide greater compliance to be accepted for registration. The new industry codes will be designed to identify the common CoR risks faced by an industry and identify the range of suitable control measures that could be adopted to respond to those risks – as well as giving individual industry participants guidance on how to conduct risk assessment and analysis tailored for their own individual business.
Managing CoR obligations as an employer
As an employer – and key party in the supply chain – the best way to manage your CoR obligations is to have appropriate Safety Management Systems and controls in place for your business and your employees.
These controls may include business practices, training, procedures and review processes that:
- Identify, assess, evaluate, and control risk
- Manage compliance with speed, fatigue, mass, dimension, loading and vehicle standards requirements through identified best practice
- Involve regular reporting, including to executive officers
- Document or record actions taken to manage safety.
You must also be aware of any business demands that might directly or indirectly put pressure on other parties in the supply chain, and ensure that individuals are aware that everyone within the supply chain is legally liable if something goes wrong (in accordance with their level of CoR).
What do I need to do about the CoR changes?
While you may already have been operating under CoR laws, now is a good time to review your business practices and ensure they support the CoR obligations for your business and employees:
- Make sure that your employees understand that each person in the supply chain has a duty to ensure safe transport operation practices, and are familiar with the level of control or influence each individual has in complying with the HVNL – including what transport activities or actions are expected to meet CoR obligations and what risk mitigation activities each individual is responsible for
- Actively identify, assess and control hazards and transportation risks, and specifically notes
- Review your policies and procedures
- Take a proactive approach to risk management and improving safety, and work closely with other parties in the supply chain
- Communicate any business policy changes and/or expectations to staff through information and/or training sessions
- Seek professional or legal advice if you are unsure of where to start – JMH Training and Compliance can help you develop and implement a Safety Management System specific to your organisation to ensure compliance with the HVNL and CoR requirements. Contact email@example.com or call 0427 860 226.
Find out more from the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator website: https://www.nhvr.gov.au/