Industrial scene

by Kirk Coningham, CEO, Australian Logistics Council

What images does the word ‘safety’ conjure up in your mind? Perhaps it’s high visibility workwear? Checking off boxes on an audit form? Equipment costs? Or perhaps the task of preparing reports for management to demonstrate compliance? Many of these responses are typical. Far less typical is the scenario of colleagues at all levels of an organisation proactively engaging in discussions around safety.

cross the freight and logistics industry, many remain so focused on the administrative processes that surround safety compliance that they neglect to have these essential conversations. Even when the conversations do occur, they are often too focused on the processes around safety, rather than the people involved. After all, safety issues are not solely caused by issues with vehicles or equipment.

Suppose a colleague is struggling with pressures at home, or with mental health issues that might not be immediately apparent. These matters won’t necessarily be picked up by a traditional safety audit or compliance check – yet they can undoubtedly be contributing factors to workplace safety issues if left unaddressed.

It is easy to pay lip service to the idea that “everyone” is responsible for safety. What is far more difficult is to foster an organisational culture that prioritises safety, from the basement to the boardroom, and recognises that safety is fundamentally about people, not processes.

It is one thing for managers and executives to count the number of green ticks on a document and satisfy themselves that everything is going well in terms of meeting an organisation’s safety obligations.

Yet, too much of what is done in the name of safety can ultimately be unnecessary or ineffective. As we all understand, a high degree of activity does not necessarily equate to a high quality of output.


Transport is one consideration for safety.


Developing an organisational safety culture

Changing the focus from one of mere compliance to one of conversation and collaboration is the central theme for the 2019 ALC & ATA Supply Chain Safety Summit, which will be held at the Hilton Sydney from 16–17 September.

For the second year running, ALC and the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) are joining forces to present Australia’s most significant annual supply chain safety event, and help industry participants at all levels to deliver improved safety outcomes in their businesses and across the industry.

The program for this year’s Summit has been developed to address safety imperatives relevant to all modes of freight transport, and to provide attendees with the insights and practical advice they need to effectively influence the safety approach taken in the day-to-day operation of their own businesses.

This will include updates from regulators and policymakers, technology demonstrations, practical case studies of how various parties are meeting their Chain of Responsibility obligations and discussions on measuring safety performance. Attendees will also learn about the causes of truck fires and roll overs, as well as the latest developments on managing fatigue.

Particular highlights will be keynote presentations delivered by two highly regarded safety experts whose work challenges many of the assumptions often made when it comes to the management of safety issues.

Greg Smith, author of Paper Safe, will explore some of the hard questions around conventional approaches to safety in our workplaces – and whether the preponderance of bureaucracy that has sprung up around safety management systems in recent times is producing perverse outcomes.

He will also set out some of the steps that can be taken to reconnect employers and employees to the original purpose of WHS – creating and maintaining safer workplaces – and move away from the intense focus on paperwork and compliance reporting.

This theme will be built upon by Marc McLaren from Art of Work, an organisation that helps companies to harness the expertise and insights of their people to deliver improvements to safety, beyond what bureaucracies and systems of compliance can know or predict.

There will also be opportunities for attendees to drill down into specific areas of safety and consider how supply chain participants can develop solutions to long-term challenges that can lead to safety issues in the workplace.

A particular focus in this respect will be on what more can be done to improve the health of the freight logistics workforce. Australia’s supply chain relies on dedicated professionals who often spend long periods away from their families and friends in order to perform their roles.

This can engender very real health challenges, both in terms of risks to physical health through dietary, substance abuse and fatigue issues, as well as mental health through social isolation and pressures placed on domestic relationships due to long absences.

A focus on people is critical

Summit participants will have the chance to hear directly about some practical initiatives that are being developed by the industry to deal with these issues, ensuring that members of its workforce are well-supported and have a place to turn in the event that these pressures begin to overwhelm.

With the Master Code for heavy vehicle safety having been in operation since November 2018, the Summit will also be an important opportunity for those within the industry to provide feedback on how it has assisted them in their own operations, and in improving understanding of how the Chain of Responsibility works. This issue will be the focus for one of the Summit’s interactive workshops.

Other workshop sessions will gather direct industry input on the review of the Heavy Vehicle National Law being undertaken by the National Transport Commission, use personal stories to consider how other parts of the supply chain interact on-site with heavy vehicle drivers, and explore in-depth ways it might be possible to better predict and manage worker fatigue.

As the development of technology offers new ways to improve the safety of our supply chains, Summit attendees will also be given a close look at how virtual reality is being deployed to deliver more effective safety training, as well as the impact of increasing automation and the safety issues that arise through the interaction of the human workforce with robotics.

The 2019 ALC & ATA Supply Chain Safety Summit promises to be an engaging, thought-provoking and practical two days that will give participants a competitive advantage when it comes to improving the safety and the productivity of their businesses.

Moreover, it will play an important role in the industry’s continuing efforts to transform safety culture, moving from a focus on mere compliance towards a model that works proactively with an organisation’s personnel to address safety risks and put the safety focus where it should be – on people.

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