Who’s Responsible for compliance?

In a very interesting development, it seems that we are starting to see the turning point back to some common sense in terms of responsibility for compliance, at least in the area of Chain of Responsibility (COR). In what has now become an industry, regulators are now turning their sights on corporate lawyers, compliance units and their safety officers to highlight that many of the actions they take unnecessarily INCREASES their own legal liabilities and exposure. That’s right, not only is the substantial administrative and financial burden a significant disadvantage especially for large enterprises and bureaucracies, the overzealous empires that they have created have instead meant that far from reducing compliance risks, they have taken on more and more of it – totally the opposite of what the original purpose was.

But many people in our Industry already knew this. The problem has been that you can’t discuss it because of the threat presented from questioning regulatory thinking and cover-your-arse paper processes. Compliance and Safety nowadays is more about ensuring boxes have been ticked, than actually minimising the risks or indeed achieving a good (safe) outcome. In very many cases, the “compliant” processes actually increase the risks. I can’t explain this any better myself than suggesting you review this article from Australian Transport News and encouraging you to take in the comments from both the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVL) and the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), and how the unintended consequences from this legislation might even be putting these companies in hot water with the Corporations Act. This has come about either because safety officers don’t understand COR, or they are eagerly growing their influence (i.e. acting out of self-interest).

So perhaps the next time your customer asks you to do safety their way, it might be a good idea to listen to what they have to say and if it makes sense, by all means do it. But in many cases the “advice” is coming from someone who might not have a full understanding of the job at hand, you could suggest to them that this is what you do for a living, but if they want your company to do it their way you can comply with their request. Maybe point out to them that by instructing you how to do the job, they’ve taken on the responsibilities and obligations should anything go wrong. That way, you’ve covered yourself too. But without the cost, and with much less responsibility.

As always, onwards and upwards!

Fred Carlsson

General Manager

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