What is duty of care?

Duty of Care has long been a part of the Australian Health and Safety (H&S) lexicon, and with the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to New Zealand, more emphasis is being placed on the issue there.

This article focuses on what Duty of Care means for a Fleet Manager in relation to both assigned fleet and shared fleet and plant.

While there are some nuances in the legal interpretation of duty of care between the two countries we are going to focus on their common obligations.

NOTE: this article shouldn't be considered legal advice

Common Obligations

While not a conclusive list, the following are some common obligations to consider.

  • Providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.
  • Providing and maintaining safe plant and structures.
  • Providing and maintaining safe systems of work.
  • Ensuring the safe use, handling and storage of plant, structures and substances.
  • Providing adequate facilities for the welfare of workers in carrying out work for the business or undertakings, including ensuring access to those facilities.
  • Providing any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.
  • Monitoring the health of workers and the conditions at the workplace for the purpose of preventing injury or illness of workers arising from the conduct of the business or undertaking.

Safe Plant and Structure

This article looks particularly at the second item in this list 'Providing and maintaining safe plant and structure', which covers all the usual 'suspects', such as:

  • Regular servicing
  • Checking first aid kits
  • Your state/country Certificate of Fitness (COF) and/or Warrant of Fitness (WOF)

Leveraging Smartrak's Servicing Module

These types of checks and maintenance are easily managed at scale in the Smartrak Servicing Module. Many customers go far beyond this to check, for example, fire extinguishers and insulation compliance on EWPs (Elevated Work Platforms), but these checks are generally time-based and many months apart.

  • What happens if someone damaged the tyre on a vehicle and returned it to the pool? They may not know of the damage or are too embarrassed to tell anyone
  • What happens if the brake lights are out on the car and the next driver risks a 'rear ending'?
  • What happens if a loose panel on a vehicle that the driver hasn't reported or hasn't checked for poses a risk to a pedestrian or cyclist? Safe plant (Duty of Care) does not just apply to the driver and passengers, but other users of public roads as well.
  • What happens if a car breaks down in a remote location placing an employee at risk?

Any of these scenarios that lead to an accident or incident could result in an organisation being found to have failed in its Duty of Care for their employees or the general public.

Systems of Management

The Duty of Care obligation for a fleet manager is that they can show systems and processes to prevent these types of risks developing. But what response is appropriate?

  • Hope nothing happens between services?
  • Check every vehicle when it is returned to the pool or on a weekly schedule for vehicles with a custodian?

If the latter, would the additional headcount or time to perform all these checks be approved in the budget?

A Fleet Manager cannot be in multiple places at the same time, so some of these checks must be outsourced to the drivers.

Many organisations have implemented paper-based checklists for drivers to perform this function, however, this often runs into issues such as:

  • Creating a mountain of paperwork someone still needs to trawl through.
  • Delay between check completion and being able to take action.
  • "It's only a short trip, I won't do it for this one" syndrome.
  • No reporting.
  • Inspection forms being lost/unavailable in the vehicle or out of stock.

It's Time to Move to Digital

To provide safe vehicles and plant for your employees, these inspections need to be frequent and digitally enabled; allowing them to be reported and audited.

Contact Smartrak to discover how you can improve your health and safety compliance.

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