Navigating the Chain of Responsibility

By April 9, 2018 News

In mid-2018, the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) will be amended to provide that every party in the heavy vehicle transport supply chain has a duty to ensure the safety of their transport activities. Everyone in the supply chain has a responsibility to prevent or reduce potential injury, danger or loss by ensuring heavy vehicle transport-related activities are safe.

A significant consideration for every fleet is understanding which people in the chain of responsibility are responsible for which parts of a regulated heavy vehicle. The can include the following:

  1. employer of the driver of the vehicle; and
  2. prime contractor of the driver; and
  3. operator of the vehicle; and
  4. scheduler of goods or passengers for transport by the vehicle, and the scheduler of its driver; and
  5. consignor of goods for transport by the vehicle; and
  6. consignee of goods for transport by the vehicle; and
  7. loading manager of goods for transport by the vehicle; and
  8. loader of goods on to the vehicle; and
  9. un-loader of goods from the vehicle.

It is important to note that it is the performance of any these functions, whether exclusively or occasionally, that determines whether a person falls within any of these definitions.  Using a job title or contractual description to negate responsibility for actions simply won’t cut it, in turn encouraging all parties to take their responsibilities seriously.

Furthermore, a person may be a party in the chain of responsibility in more than one capacity. For example a person may be an employer, operator and consignor at the same time in relation to a driver and be subject to duties in each of the capacities.

In any accident the court may have regard to anything that it considers to be relevant when considering actions things that the person did, or did not do to lower or manage workplace risk. The following areas are key things that need to always been considered by the fleet manager or other relevant bodies:

  1. the nature of the aspect or risk that the person was attempting to, or should have been attempting to, address; and
  2. the likelihood of a risk eventuating; and
  3. the degree of harm that would result if a risk did eventuate; and
  4. the circumstances (e.g. the risk category that the relevant offence belongs to); and
  5. the degree to which the person (either personally or through an agent or employee) had the ability to eliminate, prevent or reduce an aspect, or to eliminate a risk or to minimise the likelihood of a risk eventuating; and
  6. the experience, expertise and knowledge that the person, or the person’s agent or employee, had or ought reasonably have had; and
  7. the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate, prevent or reduce an aspect, or to eliminate a risk or to minimise the likelihood of a risk eventuating; and
  8. the cost of eliminating a risk or minimising the likelihood of a risk eventuating; and
  9. the body of fatigue knowledge.

Adopting a risk management approach to meet your responsibilities under primary duty obligations is the most appropriate method and can be achieved by using a Safety Management System (SMS). AfMA is delighted to be covering the topic of Chain of Responsibility with plenary session speaker Geoff Casey in more detail at our upcoming Fleet Conference & Exhibition.

Geoff Casey has an extensive background in regulatory policy, risk and safety management systems in safety critical industries. Although he has spent time in rail, mining and lecturing at university, primarily his background and experience has been in the aviation industry including as an airline pilot, in air traffic management, as a regulator and responsibility for operational safety, risk and investigations at Qantas.

Geoff Casey

As the Executive Director of Productivity and Safety at the NHVR, Geoff’s key responsibilities include the development and delivery of the National Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Strategy Frameworks. The National Heavy Vehicle Accreditation Scheme, Fatigue Unit, Safety Promotion Training and Education, Vehicle Standards and Performance Based Standards also report through to him.

Details of AfMA’s upcoming session on Chain of Responsibility can be found here.