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Chain of Responsibility Part 2

Drivers and Transport Managers obviously have a key role as gatekeepers in driving safe working practices within the industry but are they the true source of the issue, after all who do these drivers really work for? They work for us. Are the really dangerous people not behind the wheel but managing the supply chain? Are the managers and decision makers like you and I enabling this culture whilst deceiving ourselves that we are safety conscious managers?

Too often we look at our supply chain in terms of customer service and cost. We look at the huge 3PL opportunities available to us. We look at our career and our bonus plans. We talk declining cost environments and then we look at third parties and the opportunities they present. The focus on cost and customer service is entirely appropriate but we cannot leave our responsibilities to others. The evidence on the ground suggests that many are still unconsciously outsourcing the safety piece with a “We trust you to do the right thing” mind set.

There are notable industry examples for whom Safety is paramount; Linfox’s transparency on WH&S is the benchmark from my own external experience. Within Linfox it is almost a religion and they don’t just use safety as a competitive edge, they share what they know opening up their resources to other businesses in their supply chain to help them in their own safety journey. They endeavour to own the prior and the post aspects of their supply chain and they are very honest about their opportunities and sharing their learning.

Sadly many other upper & middle managers operate in ignorance or otherwise of safety legislation. People who would regard themselves as values driven, safe conscientious managers are allowing unsafe situations to exist because they ignore their own Chain of Responsibility. Mentally they have outsourced safety along with their operational requirements. While any grey around our personal and professional responsibilities  has been utterly removed by the 2011 WH&S Act, the almost unconscious practice of outsourcing safety is entrenched in the culture of our collective industries. Some of the largest FMCG companies in Australia don’t have any an internal WH&S auditing process so their ability to assess, control and manage risk with their 3rd Party providers is minimal. Yet we know that unless a company can demonstrate the minimum of reasonably practical in terms of WH&S safety, then the liability associated with any incident is like a tsunami which consumes all control points in the supply chain.

The loading dock isn’t a magical portal where things appear and vanish. How those goods arrive and depart and the manner and structure in which this happens is the responsibility of every manager in the chain. If we do not take an ongoing, active & structured approach to compliance and safety into the farthest reaches of our supply chain then we are exposed. Companies that spend many hundreds of thousands on managing their brand via social media, marketing and in training their people to be brand aware ambassadors for their business’s don’t realise that even a fraction of their spend in this area could be far better utilised in keeping their brand safe against the worst form of negative publicity, an at fault safety incident which the true cost of which can be far higher than the business can ever pay.

Many business’s do not audit their third parties in any capacity aside from their invoice; they do not check what drug and alcohol polices are in place, what induction training is done around PPE, load restraint, capacity or fatigue. There are companies who send drivers on trips of many hundreds of kilometres with no knowledge of how a run like that can be achieved safely. How many businesses can say that they have done everything reasonably practical to prevent an incident when they aren’t even sure what their legal obligations are on safety? How many of us have sent their vehicles and onto sites they have never looked at through the lens of risk management?

Reasonably practical is an ever changing level of safety and it is only the starting point for any business to really own safety. If we are not the right mix of curious and intolerant around safety behaviours in our partnerships, then while we may save money and be personally rewarded for that, we will continue to be the true source of the ongoing non-compliance we see on our roads and too often in tragic headlines.

Our numbers are important, our personal remuneration & careers are important and for all of us WH&S is a challenge. It’s always a cultural change, a significant cost, a lot of hard work, numerous tough conversations, lengthy consultative processes and it can expose the business to its competitors. I have seen companies lose business around safety. I’ve experienced it and knowing you’ve lost income for your business because another company is willing to put their people and other road users into harm’s way is a galling experience. It is also not that rare. If you see a transport provider today, yours or anybody else’s, how do you know that driver has a valid license? Is their PPE Day & Night compliant, how many hours can they work today? Are they sober? What measure have you taken to ensure that you know the answers to these questions? Regardless of who their employer is, if they work in any capacity for you, that person is your worker under the 2011 WH&S Act.

Real safety comes from having a sustained ongoing passion to ensure that everything we touch and everything that touches us is viewed through the safety lens and by working with all parties in our supply chain to truly take responsibility for the risk that is inherent within any form of logistics. This is the only way in which we will stop being the real driver behind the ongoing non-compliance on our roads, in our yards and across our supply chain.

This was first published by the Logistics Association of Australia in their Dispatch Magazine in October 2012