Chain of Responsibility 101

By FLEET e-news posted 19 October 2020 01:24


Chain of Responsibility 101

(based on IPWEA’s Plant and Vehicle Management Manual Ed4)


Chain of Responsibility (CoR) legislation and the Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) legislation are very similar in their structure and intent. If we look at WHS, it's about ensuring that no one gets hurt at work. WHS requires controls to ensure that basic safety rules are in place and to meet and follow the standards. Essentially this is easy. A set of rules in the workplace, notice boards, people observing situations, workplace health and safety people all around etc. So easy, right? But it still goes wrong even with all of that.

So, let’s take this WHS environment and remove all the controls that are in place, move it outside a captive workplace with assistance and place it in the field with a single person and some machinery and a completely variable environment. Sounds awfully like a truck and driver on the road dealing with daily problems of trucks on the road. At this point CoR comes in; effectively its WHS outside the gate.

What is Chain of Responsibility?

CoR is not new legislation and in fact was first introduced in July 2003. CoR is updated and amended roughly every 5 years. In 2008, Fatigue rules were significantly changed and updated. In 2013, the NHVR was established with training and education on the agenda. In 2018, the legislation saw its biggest changes since inception.

If we step back in time, the original concept of CoR was generated by the National Transport Commission (NTC). This was then given to the state authorities to implement. This led to some significant variations as to how the rules would be applied in each state. When the NHVR came into effect in 2013, this signalled the commencement of the harmonisation of the rules nationally. This is well underway with all states except WA and NT becoming part of NHVR (as at June 2019).

Although some of the specifics have changed, the principles created in 2003 are still relevant today. Figure 1 shows an “end to end” process starting with the consignor and ending with the receiver and all the steps in between.


If a business reads Figure 1, they will be able to determine their responsibilities under the Act. In 2018, variations to “responsibility” were expanded to now include “accountability”. This means that CEO’s, directors, corporate managers, executives of a business have a Primary Duty to ensure that the components of CoR are introduced, implemented and applied within a business.

The question then is, if they are accountable, what are the risks as an executive of a business? There are 3 categories of offence under the 2018 variation which impact on individuals and businesses and they are:

Category 3 – Breaches safety duty
$50,000 individual – $500,000 Corporation

Category 2 – Risk of death / injury
$100,000 individual – $1M Corporation

Category 1 – Recklessness 5 years imprisonment
$300,000 Individual – $3M Corporation

CoR & Workplace manslaughter

In most states of Australia, Workplace Manslaughter is a reality and fines range from $1.6m to $16.5m with imprisonment from 20 years to life. Note: under WorkSafe definitions “a truck is a workplace” and statistically truck drivers are 13 time more likely to die at work than any other industry section. As such CoR is now even more important than ever.

What is Covered Under CoR?

The legislation covers many aspects that relate to a “heavy vehicle” which is generally described as a vehicle more than 4.5 tonnes in gross mass (GVM/GCM). The legislation covers 2 primary aspects, with a series of subcategories, being:

  1. Physical aspects
    • Load restraint
    • Mass and dimensions
    • Fatigue
    • Speed control
    • Drugs, alcohol and health
    • Equipment suitability
    • Equipment maintenance.
  2. Procedural aspects
    • Systems and control
    • Documentation
    • Corrective actions
    • Training
    • Subcontractor assessment and control.

For more information on CoR refer to the NHVR Website.

CoR Regulations

CoR unlike WHS which is covered under standard AS/NZS 4801:2001, is not as specific and is based on “outcomes” and not standards. This means that the NHVR will allow businesses to determine how they can meet the regulations in their own way. As such each business can design and operate their own system. How that is verified as meeting the requirements is open ended. In fact, the main test for meeting compliance is when something has gone wrong and you are stood in front of a judge.

To combat this, there are several tools that have been developed to assist with the structure of a CoR system within a business.

Codes of Practice (COPs): These are guidance documents designed to provide a base structure and clearly define the “Why and What” to be done under CoR with some case studies and examples to assist. However, they are not in their own right a CoR Management System.

Industry Sector Standards (ISS): These are detailed guidance documents designed to provide a full structure for a business to follow that meets the requirements of CoR. An ISS initially starts off as generic to provide a structure and then is adapted and updated to meet both the legislative and business requirements. They are generally reasonably well tailored to meet the needs of a sector, then with some adjustments meets business specifics.

Safety System – Pillars

As mentioned earlier, a Safety System is based on 4 pillars. Here are some typical examples of what is contained in each:


  • Management commitment
  • Safety accountabilities
  • Appointment of key safety personnel
  • Documentation


  • Identify risks
  • Understand risks
  • Make informed decisions


  • Monitoring how the system operates
  • Measuring safety performance
  • Managing change
  • Continually improve the system


  • Education and processes for training personnel in safety-critical areas
  • Effective two-way communication between managers and employees

Where to Next?

It was incumbent on all businesses to have a system of some sort in place by the 1st of October 2018 to manage and control CoR Safety. As that date has now passed, there may be a few gaps in some systems. Businesses do need to be careful not to fall into the trap that they have a WHS Safety System in place so that’s all that is needed. CoR requirements and systems are significantly different to WHS. Although there are some overlaps in certain areas there are still significant variations that make CoR different to WHS.

CORSaMS – Chain of Responsibility Safety Management System

In conjunction with industry partner Latus, IPWEA now offers fleet operators a clear pathway to CoR compliance by introducing the Chain of Responsibility Safety Management System – CORSaMS. CORSaMS is a comprehensive system comprising; frameworks, policy, procedure, training, auditing and certification.

For further information contact Mike Wood, Managing Director Latus Logistic Risk Specialists -



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