Industry faces challenges on visibility of subcontractor safety practices

Tier 1 transport and logistics operators are being confronted with the issue of managing safety across their wider work force.

Under chain of responsibility laws any party of influence that fails to properly ensure Heavy Vehicle National Law compliance can be found culpable.

This closer alignment with workplace health and safety laws is already being felt throughout the industry.

Just recently a Western Sydney hardware business was found guilty of breaches of various safety duties in 2017 including failure to conduct an onsite induction and improper exclusion zones all of which a judge found to contribute to the death of a driver whose vehicle had also been loaded by a manufacturer in an unusual and unsafe manner.

With COR accountability running across all decision-makers in transport operations, management in the biggest and most professional firms are finding they are exposed through the practices of their high-risk subcontractors.

A General Manager at a Tier 1 operator, who provided comment on the condition they remain unnamed, said subcontractors are responsible for the majority of their truck rollover incidents.

According to Steven Perlen, FatigueFit Chief Operating Officer, most businesses don’t have the same visibility of their subcontractor firms as they do their regular employees.

“Large companies recognize the need for and have invested heavily in safety processes and technologies. Whilst they have a good handle on what their people are doing, they don’t always have the same level of insight into their subbies practices,” he said.

“This is a significant issue. No matter how well a company commits to best practice COR compliance across their sophisticated logistics operations they are going to have to deal with this challenge,” Perlen said.

“That goes for all the big players who are potentially liable for a sub-contractor even if it’s not their fault.”

All of the leading operators in the market share the same problem where the signature of a subcontractor on a procurement contract only confirms that they are willing to follow safety and compliance requirements.

“Intention to follow company policies doesn’t cover a company under COR,” said Perlen.

“Most major trucking companies rely on employing subbies. How do you know what they are doing while they’re working for you? And how do you know what they are doing when they are not?”

“We understand the challenges facing the industry especially the complexities of fatigue management, where the individual is the risk.”

With parties struggling to understand their COR obligations, including a lack of visibility of gaps in risk management compliance along the chain, this often leaves them with a very real sense of exposure.

It’s a very real and ongoing concern for any firm or operator that hires subbies. How are they to quickly and cheaply get a clear view of where their subcontractor risk lies?

“Our assessment and report can be rolled out across your subcontractor firms and where gaps are identified. We provide access to a range of digital tools and templates to ensure the business can achieve a scientifically and legally defensible position on fatigue risk management,” said Perlen.

“FatigueFit will give you a handle on what’s happening with subcontractors by turbocharging the assessment and review process.

“That will help subbie firms get up to speed and Tier 1 companies better manage their COR risk.”

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