The definitive guide to Chain of Responsibility (CoR)

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Team Kiri Align
12th April 2021

The changes introduced to the Chain of Responsibility (CoR) under the National Heavy Vehicle Law (NHVL) in the recent past, mandates that everyone in the supply chain has an obligation to ensure vehicle transport safety & that all parties must do what is reasonably practicable to ensure the safety of their transport activities. Given the fact that the Agriculture sector is massively dependent on heavy vehicle transport as part of its supply chain, it has become imperative for businesses to reduce risks related to agriculture transport tasks. Hence it is crucial for agri-businesses to be aware of the changes to the CoR laws, to identify gaps in their current Safety and Compliance management processes and take necessary measures to bridge the gaps.

In this post, we will discuss the Chain of Responsibility, how it applies to workplaces, and how it highlights the importance of having a health and safety management system.

The definitive guide to Chain of Responsibility (CoR) - Kiri Align

What is Chain of Responsibility?

Chain of responsibility in simple terms means that all parties who are involved in any form of transport-related activity, are accountable for their own safety. 

Chain of responsibility is an approach used to ensure a business fulfills its obligations with respect to occupational health, safety, and environment management. The philosophy behind it is that everyone in an organisation has a responsibility to look after the health and safety of his or her coworkers, customers, and people around.

It is a risk management practice in which a person or company is held responsible for the actions of any member of their organisation. The responsibility moves down an organisational chain and terminates with individuals at the lowest levels, such as field workers.

It further means that each worker is responsible for taking care of his or her own safety on the job. They are responsible for reporting any hazards or unsafe conditions they may find. They are also responsible for helping keep other workers safe, by informing them of any potential dangers they may be unaware of.

In most workplaces, it is often assumed that the main responsibility rests with the supervisors or the management who implement and maintain policies and procedures. But Chain of Responsibility holds accountability for all the actions that follow a work incident and apply equally to all the staff in an organisation. 

Let's explore this concept using an example of using Personal protective Equipment (PPE) on the job site.

If a worker is provided with appropriate PPE but refuses to or neglects to use it, then he/she has breached the Chain of Responsibility. Another example is, reporting an obvious hazard in the workplace. That being said, it is not mandatory for members of a team to follow every single rule or procedure. What is mandatory is that a Chain of Responsibility has been identified and it exists. This goes against the common The Chronology of Chain of Responsibility (CoR):

There have been significant changes to how the vehicle transport laws has been interpreted and managed over the years. Erstwhile, any and every transport related offence went back to the driver (overloading a spreader as an example). This did not help with driving the right behaviour within the vehicle transport arm of the agriculture business, including farming, spreading and fertiliser logistics management. 

In the mid 2000s, the concept of CoR was brought into existence in Australia. This ensured that the vehicle transport laws were robust and everyone in the chain was accountable for safety. In the instance of an overloaded truck being pulled over- the driver of the truck, the business owner, the person who loaded the vehicle, the assigning party and the receiving party would all be treated as guilty of an offence, as opposed to just having the driver being liable. This change put the duty back on everyone to work together, and ensure safety compliance. These laws were purely focused on compliance with respect to the core competencies of mass, dimension, fatigue, load and speed. However, this change did see a significant drop in the number of offences. 

The recent changes introduced to CoR on 1st October 2018, has brought in more consistency in road safety laws, with an intent to look beyond the core competency and bring a holistic view on road & transport safety. As a result Work, Health and Safety (WHS) laws were aligned with National Heavy Vehicle law (NHVL). The big change introduced as part of the amendment is that every party in the supply chain has a duty to ensure the safety of their transport activities. This shifted the focus to eliminate or minimise potential harm or risk by doing all that is reasonably practicable to ensure safety, and not just when a breach occurred.

Chain of Responsibility - Who is liable for workplace injuries?

In Australia, Chain of Responsibility laws dictate that employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees, as well as anyone else who may be affected by their business or work operations, such as customers and visitors.

Chain of Responsibility and WHS

Chain of Responsibility is a model that shows how responsibility for workplace health and safety can be shared among various stakeholders. The model is used to help organisations identify their key responsibilities and how they share that responsibility with other organisations and individuals. 

Chain of Responsibility - How does it apply to Australian workplaces? 

The Chain of Responsibility links every member of a workplace, whether they are managers or team members. It is the responsibility of all members to make sure that best practices are being followed to keep each other, their colleagues, and the business safe.

 misconception that every team must have the same rules, procedures and communication mechanisms.

How does Chain of Responsibility work?

Chain of Responsibility can be established by assigning specific responsibilities to particular individuals in an organisation. Every individual with responsibility can then be held responsible through a series of legal requirements. This does not mean that every employee in an organisation necessarily has to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

An organisation has the legal responsibility to protect both themselves and all other people from any risk of harm as far as practicable. For example, a carpenter who desires to ensure the safety of a worker must ensure that worker: 1) wears a respirator 2) does not allow roof clearance above the load limit 3) does not operate heavy machinery in exposure above the permissible exposure limit. 

The Chain of Responsibility results in an understanding of who had ultimate responsibility for outcomes and consequences. In this way, each individual has some level of influence within that Chain of Responsibility.

Why is a Chain of Responsibility Important?

The Chain of Responsibility is an important aspect of WHS management. It is a method of ensuring that the people who have the authority and power to take charge of a situation do so, and that everyone else abides by the policies and procedures governing their respective roles.  This can help identify areas of the business in need of improvement, as well as areas that are doing well. 

The benefits of Chain of Responsibility includes:

Determining negligence and liability

This legality is often crucial in determining negligence and liability. It ensures that the one who is ultimately responsible for the actions of an employee can be held accountable for those actions. 

Workplace Health and Safety

The Chain of Responsibility is one of the cornerstones of Workplace Health and Safety. Each individual in a workplace has a specific role in identifying risks in their area, and then ensuring that they are managed appropriately. It is effective because it places responsibility on every worker within an organisation, from executives through to apprentices.

Effective disciplinary reporting system

Chain of Responsibility is a disciplinary reporting system used in some organisations. It is widely used to ensure that everyone follows the rules and regulations. When a worker violates a rule, he is reported to his superior. His superior will then decide the punishment for the violation. The process continues until the highest ranking official is reached, who is then the person authorised to impose the punishment.

Protects Business Reputation

Every business is built on the responsibility of its employees. This is a crucial aspect of a business. If the employee fails to work properly then it affects the reputation of the business.

Safety Management System (SMS): 

The best way to comply with the duties under the Heavy Vehicle National law is to have a Safety Management System (SMS) in place. This includes training, procedures and business practices to identify risk, manage compliance & reporting and document actions taken to manage safety. The biggest benefit of having a SMS is that the business can provide a safer work environment for its employees, customers, contractors and the public.

In conclusion, it is important for businesses operating in the Agricultural sector to have a think about the following to ensure CoR compliance under the National Heavy Vehicle Law: 

Final Thoughts

Understanding the Chain of Responsibility will help you understand how to manage health and safety within your workplace.

If you are a business owner, the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not your workplace is compliant with legislation or if you are risking fines and punishment for non-compliance. 

However, staying on top of all the regulations and laws can be an extremely difficult task. Kiri Align is a health and safety management system that makes it easy to manage everyone's safety, reduce the risk of accidents, and protect the environment. Before you know it, you will have a better work environment for your employees.

Published by: Kiri Align