Chain of Responsibility or CoR which is commonly used in supply chain, when discussing the safety of a transport task is a legal framework driven by the HVNL or Heavy Vehicle National Law. It requires any business involved in a transport task to ensure due diligence in their supply chain.

When discussing Chain of Responsibility in and around what the HVNL sets out, to ensure a prime duty on anyone involved in a transport task, the law clearly states that,

  1. Each party in the chain of responsibility for a heavy vehicle must ensure, so far as is
    reasonably practicable, the safety of the party’s transport activities relating to the vehicle.
  2. Without limiting subsection (1), each party must, so far as is reasonably practicable-
    1. eliminate public risks and, to the extent it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate public risks, minimise the public risks; and
    2. ensure the party’s conduct does not directly or indirectly cause or encourage–
    3. the driver of the heavy vehicle to contravene this Law; or
    4. the driver of the heavy vehicle to exceed a speed limit applying to the driver; or
    5. another person, including another party in the chain of responsibility, to contravene this Law.

The heavy vehicle legislation is basically saying that it is reasonable to expect anyone to ensure that they are doing everything they can to ensure they are actively reducing risks. Those risks may involve other people in the transport task and the general public.

So how do you do that?

Chain of Responsibility (or CoR) Training

The first step is to ensure chain of responsibility training in your business for all front line staff. That is, anyone who deals with the loading or scheduling of heavy vehicles, to ensure they understand their role and responsibilities. There are a few key roles in the heavy vehicle national law that clearly point out specific roles or responsibilities in a transport task that have a prime duty, to ensure safety. Those people may not have a title that reflects what is written within the legislation, but if by virtue of what they do, have similar responsibilities, irrespective of their job title, they may be implicated into having a legal liability under the Act.

The roles listed in the Act are as follows and are considered a ‘Party’ in the chain of responsibility, of a heavy vehicle,

  1. if the vehicle’s driver is an employed driver–an employer of the driver;
  2. if the vehicle’s driver is a self-employed driver–a prime contractor for the driver;
  3. an operator of the vehicle;
  4. a scheduler of the vehicle;
  5. a consignor of any goods in the vehicle;
  6. a consignee of any goods in the vehicle;
  7. a packer of any goods in the vehicle;
  8. a loading manager for any goods in the vehicle;
  9. a loader of any goods in the vehicle;
  10. an un-loader of any goods in the vehicle.

When you undertake chain of responsibility training for your staff, you will ensure they have practical knowledge of their role, the responsibilities that come with their role in the heavy vehicle national law and front line understanding of a risk. If you do not realise how important understanding a risk is, you should, because to comply with chain of responsibility demands, you also need to have an active safety system. The importance of your staff being able to identify problems is paramount in helping you manage your active safety system in your business.

Chain of Responsibility (or CoR) Safety System

An active safety system is critical in managing your risks within your business. Without it, you simply have a load of policies on your walls and a folder somewhere that say’s “Procedures”. A true active safety system in any business will have an ongoing working group which discusses safety risks and actively seeks out new risks to discuss and manage, preferably from lead indicators. A lead indicator is a way in which you can identify risks before they have been found through a safety hazard that has been reported and hopefully you don’t have too many of those, especially ones which have caused injury. You probably understand now too, that a hazard is a trail indicator, not the best to discover as it really is too little too late.

One of the best chain of responsibility (or CoR) lead indicators is fines that drivers may have been issued. If you can identify a drivers poor behaviour prior to an accident, you might just save a life. It would be arguable though that a lead indicator is not a fine that someone has received and I would listen if you were to argue that it was a hazard without a recorded injury. But like all things, you need to start somewhere and although we have identified a few more smart lead indicators in our chain of responsibility (or CoR) audits, we are in business ourselves too.

When you have found your hazards, discussed them and added them to your active safety system by logging them into your safety risk matrix you can then have a procedure or tool box talk training to ensure your staff and contractors are made aware of the hazards and ensure that behaviour and process, steer your staff and contractors away from your known risks.

Chain of Responsibility (or CoR) Audit

Every now and again, it is wise to obtain a business audit into your safety system strength. Although it seems everyone would love a free chain of responsibility audit template, a CoR audit is vast and identifies difficult to source risks in a business. If you were to obtain a free chain of responsibility audit, I would be cautious that it would not necessarily identify all of your gaps and leave you and your business exposed. The work that goes into a MAEZ audit is about 3 days and we charge a relative fee for that work, it also brings years of practical experience in transport operations and gives the client a vast amount of knowledge and follow up advice to help close the risks in our clients business. So if you’re after a cheap or free chain of responsibility audit, then I’m sure you may find the right resources to help you somewhere on the WWW, but it may be putting your business in the firing line by not reassuring your processes are robust enough to meet the legislative requirements.

When you do undertake a quality, in depth audit to reassure your processes by ascertaining gaps in your transport task, along with using your safety system and training your front line staff, you can be sure that you are on a great path to ensuring chain of responsibility nirvana. That is to say, you can sleep at night once again!

This though highlights why training in chain of responsibility is so very important. Without your staff being aware of what they are doing day to day to influence your safety strength in your transport task. What sort of audit result will you achieve, or how do you think your staff will input their ideas and understanding of risk into your safety system? So it really does pay to ground your staff and help them become aware of what it means to be safe in a transport task and what to look for in their day to day work activities, so they can support your business as best they can, to ensure your business is around for a long time to come.