19 February 2019
Published by Adam Vrahnos
Since 1 October 2018, heavy vehicle supply chain participants of all sizes have been feverishly trying to alter their business practices to stay compliant with the changes to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HNVL). One of the most notable changes is the introduction of new ‘safety duties’ which will apply to all parties involved in the Chain of Responsibility (CoR).
Everyone conducting transport activities in the heavy vehicle supply chain has a responsibility to prevent or minimise potential injury, danger or loss by ensuring their transport activities are safe.
Having a Safety Management System (SMS) in place in your business can be one of the most effective ways of meeting your safety obligations under the HVNL. Adopting and actively using an SMS has proven to help reduce safety-related incidents in other heavy transport industries, such as maritime, rail and aviation.
This article highlights the benefits of implementing a SMS and demonstrates how an SMS can assist businesses meet its safety obligations under the HVNL.
What is a SMS?
A SMS is a systematic approach to managing safety, including the necessary organisational structures, accountabilities, policies and procedures, which is integrated throughout the business wherever possible.
A SMS helps businesses continuously improve the safety of your operations through the following four components:
Implementation of the above components provides businesses with a structured set of guidelines that details an organisation's processes for maintaining safety in accordance with established regulations, specifications or legislation.
As with any compliance framework, the components seek to implement communication processes, risk controls and governance practices for maintaining compliance.
The above components and further information about how to implement the above components are set out in more detail below.
Safety policy and documentation
Your entire organisation should be committed to establishing and maintaining policies and procedures that ensure work is performed safely.
Business owners or executives under the amended HVNL have direct duties and are accountable for their businesses using safe practices throughout its commercial operations. Of course, executives can delegate tasks to implement those safe practices, but ultimately executives cannot delegate their duties under the HVNL.
As a first step for limiting liability and ensuring safety across a business’ commercial activities, a documented safety policy should be in place which essentially points the business in the right direction. A safety policy should:
As a second step, safety objectives should be implemented. The purpose of these safety objectives is to complement the safety policy, and help workers envision how safety can be achieved in practical terms. Some examples of safety objectives include:
As a third step, businesses should clearly establish the safety responsibilities of each employee. Responsibilities should be clearly defined, appropriately allocated to the right person in the business and there should be a direct reporting line to upper management/ executives to report safety issues. Establishing a direct reporting line is a critical part of ensuring compliance. It allows executives to demonstrate that not only are safety measures in place but that the executive are taking proactive steps to ensure that any safety issues during the course of the day to day operations of the business are appropriately reported.
Lastly, all staff members should make an effort to gain operational experience and boost their knowledge of safety in their organisation. Everyone within a business has some responsibility to ensure safety, and appropriately trained staff is a major step in the right direction.
Underpinning all of the above is a need to document each step. It is often the most burdensome but it needs to be done. While a business may be confident they are compliant, that business needs to ensure the documentation can demonstrate to someone outside the business that they are compliant. Documents may include procedures, checklists, forms etc which can all be used to support the steps taken to ensure safety.
Safety risk management
There are four subcomponents to safety risk management: Hazard identification, risk assessment and mitigation/treatment, risk monitoring and incident reporting. Together, each subcomponent ensures there is a proactive approach to managing safety and creates a process of identifying, assessing, treating and monitoring risks the business encounters.
Your risk management processes may improve where the entire organisation is collectively working towards the day-to-day identification and management of risk. This requires all employees of all levels to be mindful of the safety risks and identify hazards that your organisation is exposed to and are likely to encounter. Employees engaged in the day to day operations of the businesses are best placed to identify different hazards such as:
Once hazards are identified, a risk assessment should then be undertaken. A risk assessment is useful in identifying the consequences if a hazard materialises, the extent to which hazards may interact or compound, and the manner and timeframe in which these hazards should ideally be resolved. Relevantly, hazard controls should be put in place to mitigate potential risks.
After a risk has been identified and assessed, the next step is to ensure that the risk has been treated. This requires a control to be implemented to mitigate the risk and then monitoring/reviewing how that control is working to mitigate the risk. Don’t wait until something goes wrong -it’s important to review the effectiveness periodically.
As part of a businesses safety risk management framework, there should also be a robust incident reporting mechanism. Despite a business’s efforts, incidents and near misses will inevitably occur. When those incidents do occur, business’ must have a system in place to allow employees to report those incidents to the appropriate person within the business to gather that information, document it and allow the incident to be investigated/analysed to improve future safety outcomes. An incident reporting mechanism should allow collection of information relating to:
In addition to undertaking risk assessments, operators should also prioritise safety assurance in their organisation. Safety assurance is achieved by making a commitment to the following four aspects your organisation:
Safety promotion and training
An effective SMS can be achieved by promoting and communicating safety at all levels of an organisation. In practical terms this means:
Author: Adam Vrahnos
* A version of this article was originally published in CoR Adviser. This article is ©2019 Portner Press Pty Ltd and has been reproduced with permission of Portner Press.
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The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.
Published by Adam Vrahnos