The Chain of Responsibility concept exists in Australian legislation as part of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL). It states that all parties that influence a transportation task have shared responsibility for the safety with which it is carried out.
This law applies to all states and territories of Australia but also may apply to foreign directors of an Australian business. Additionally, containers shipped to Australia must be packed in compliant ways. Executive officers may face liabilities where this legislation is not respected.
In 2018, the laws were changed
As of October 1, 2018, the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) was changed to enlarge the responsibility for safety and incorporate every party in the transport supply chain, regardless of their role. This change emphasized removing or minimizing the safety risk associated with operations where “reasonably practicable.” What is considered “reasonably practicable” is defined by the WHS legislation and is based on several workplace factors.
Why did this change take place?
In the past, the legislation only addressed the result of safety infringements and bad practices in the transport industry with disciplinary action aimed at drivers and operators. But the issue is more complex than this. For example, a driver may be working under stressful conditions, with unreasonable demands being made by management that compromise safety. So the laws introduced in 2018 attempted to acknowledge the interconnectedness of every role within the transport supply chain, putting the onus on every person involved to reduce possible harm.
How do I comply with CoR legislation?
So how do you minimise risk in practical terms? You need to develop systems to monitor and control risk in the workplace, be abreast of best practices, manage compliance with all specified limits and guidelines, report on safety regularly, and document any actions taken to increase safety.
A big part of successful compliance is training. National Food Institute’s logistics arm, National Logistics Institute, provides workplace safety and logistics training that ensures compliance and is an immense value add for new employees. In an industry where it can be challenging to find and keep staff, offering onboarding training can differentiate your company from others. By providing self-development opportunities to your employees, you demonstrate your commitment to their ongoing welfare.
Personal liability on executive officers
The amended CoR emphasizes the personal responsibility and liability allotted to “executive officers.” There is an onus on directors and managers of corporations to take personal responsibility, prevent harm, and avoid breaching the law by way of any requests, requirements, or activities. An “executive offer” is defined not only by title, as a manager or director, but also by function. A worker may function as a manager, even if that is not their job title.
Failing to heed the CoR legislation could have severe consequences as fines may be imposed up to a maximum of A$300,000 per offence. Courts also have the power to hand out jail sentences to offenders who violate the CoR laws.
Do these rules just apply within Australia?
The CoR legislation is national, yet it could still apply to the international market. While shipping does not come under the umbrella of the CoR, if the goods are unloaded, and road transport is used to move them to their destination, then CoR laws do apply. It is, therefore, best for all corporations seeking to enter the Australian market to be conversant with the CoR laws and aware of any associated safety obligations and responsibilities. Even executive officers based overseas could be culpable for infringements of CoR laws in Australia. For the best outcome, start monitoring your safety procedures today and implement systems to assess CoR risks in your business. Seek training from National Logistics Institute to equip your workers at every level of the transport supply chain, from executive officers down to drivers.