Heavy Vehicle Law and Safety Management Systems – Here There Be Monsters

The promotion of the implementation of safety management systems (SMS) to ensure compliance with the upcoming amendments to the Heavy Vehicle National Law must be approached with caution, particularly in an industry with 80% very small operators. The experience in the WHS space indicates that SMS may well create as many problems as they solve. The evolution of SMS has typically seen organisations develop voluminous documentation, at times to the detriment of practical activities intended to resolve identified risks. A documented SMS is not a panacea for OHS issues, and written documents do not guarantee legal compliance or a healthy and safe workplace. Whilst an SMS may provide a method for demonstrating due diligence and corporate governance, its presence does not guarantee a safe and healthy workplace. A common outcome of rigidly documented SMS is that organisations become focused on compliance with rules, discourages workers from engagement in responding to risk as they arise and the “system” becomes misaligned with the way work is actually done on a day to day basis.