The Centre for Construction Work Health and Safety Research is assisting industry partners to understand the risk management concept 'ALARP', which has a long history, yet often causes confusion.
Like many industries, the pipeline sector has a legal duty to reduce risks to workers and the public to a level that is ‘as low as reasonably practicable’ or ALARP.
Via the Energy Pipelines Cooperative Research Centre, the CCWHSR is assisting industry partners in the pipelines sector to better understand this idea.
The concept of ALARP arose from UK law, and prior to the 1970s it was used in civil cases to determine compensation for victims of industrial accidents.
In one such case, the UK Court of Appeal reached a verdict in favour of the widow of a miner killed when the wall alongside an underground roadway collapsed, despite various protections in place.
Under the law at the time, mine owners were not responsible for failure provided they had done all that was ‘reasonably practicable’ to prevent collapse.
In the early 1970s, the Robens review led to a major change in UK health and safety law.
ALARP became an overarching general duty, rather than a means to determine compensation. Therefore, those who failed to meet it became liable for prosecution.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, all states of Australia followed the UK’s lead.
Under current legislation, all reasonably practicable measures must be put in place for all risks.
For very high risk activities, high expenditure is justified to reduce them – meaning that such activities are often not financially viable.
At the other extreme, for very low risks, doing more to reduce risk is only justifiable if the cost is also very low.
It is the risks between these two extremes that require the most intensive study and specific analysis in order to meet ALARP requirements.
ALARP is not an equation or a specific test that applies in only some cases; it is an overarching duty embedded in law, and a principle to apply in developing risk management strategies.
Please note: Views expressed in this article should not be used in place of legal counsel. If you have specific concerns for the application of this principle in your workplace, please seek legal advice.