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When you write Reasonably practical in your Safety program what are you legally saying!

Reasonably Practicable

“To imply that a computation must be made by the owner, in which the quantum of risk is placed on one scale and the sacrifice involved in the measures necessary for averting the risk (whether in money, time or trouble) is placed in the other; and that if it be shown that there is a gross disproportion between them the risk being insignificant in relation to the sacrifice the defendants discharge the onus on them. Moreover, this computation falls to be made by the owner at a point of time anterior to the accident”.

I love words in a safety program, a lot of people cut and paste them from a variety of programs and studies with out knowing their meaning or limitations, plus the legal requirement of what you are saying!

In simple terms demonstrating that risk is reduced to a level that is reasonably practicable means that the duty-owner (e.g., an owner or operator) has to show, through reasoned and supported arguments, that there are no other practical measures that could reasonably be taken to reduce risks further.

When determining what is reasonably practicable, you should take into account: the likelihood of the hazard or risk occurring. the degree of harm from the hazard or risk. knowledge about ways of eliminating or minimizing the hazard or risk. the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimize the risk.

Practicable means “feasible” as well as “usable,” and it cannot be applied to persons. Practical has at least six meanings, including the sense “capable of being put into effect, useful,” wherein the confusion with practicable arises. But there is a subtle distinction between these words that is worth keeping.

Yes!, reasonably practicable means that which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done to ensure health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters including:

(a) the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring

(b) the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or the risk

(c) what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about the hazard or risk, and ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk

(d) the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimize the risk, and

(e) after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk. What is ‘reasonably practicable’ is an objective test What is ‘reasonably practicable’ is determined objectively.

This means that a duty-holder must meet the standard of behaviour expected of a reasonable person in the duty-holder’s position and who is required to comply with the same duty. There are two elements to what is ‘reasonably practicable’. A duty-holder must first consider what can be done – that is, what is possible in the circumstances for ensuring health and safety. They must then consider whether it is reasonable, in the circumstances to do all that is possible. This means that what can be done should be done unless it is reasonable in the circumstances for the duty-holder to do something less. This approach is consistent with the objects of the OH&S Acts regardless of where you live, which include the aim of ensuring that workers and others are provided with the highest level of protection that is reasonably practicable.

To identify what is or was reasonably practicable all of the relevant matters must be taken into account and weighed up and a balance achieved that will provide the highest level of protection that is both possible and reasonable in the circumstances. Some matters may be relevant to what can be done, while others may be relevant to what is reasonable to do. No single matter determines what is (or was at a particular time) reasonably practicable to be done for ensuring health and safety. What must be taken into account and weighed up .

For example:

• there may be other legislation that requires or prohibits certain activities and limits what a duty-holder can do and the duty-holder must do what they reasonably are able to while complying with that other legislation; and

• whether a duty-holder can control or influence a particular thing or the actions of another person, or any limits on their ability to control or influence, may be relevant to what the duty holder can do, or what they may reasonably be expected to do. The OH&S Act makes it clear, however, that a duty-holder cannot avoid responsibility by a contract giving control to someone else and through that attempting to contract out of their obligations. The duty-holder should consider all of the facts and identify and consider everything that may be relevant to the hazards, risks or means of eliminating or minimizing the risks.

The matters that must always

(a) The likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring be taken into account and weighed up are the following: The greater the likelihood of a risk eventuating, the greater the significance this will play when weighing up all matters and determining what is reasonably practicable. If harm is more likely to occur, then it may be reasonable to expect more to be done to eliminate or minimize the risk.

(b) Degree of harm that may result if the hazard or risk eventuated The greater the degree of harm that could result from the hazard or risk, the more significant this factor will be when weighing up all matters to be taken into account and identifying what is reasonably required (what is reasonably practicable) in the circumstances. Clearly, more may reasonably be expected of a duty-holder to eliminate or minimize the risk of death or serious injury than a lesser harm.

(c) What the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about the hazard or risk and any ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk The knowledge about a hazard or risk, and any ways of eliminating or minimizing the hazard or risk, will be what the duty-holder actually knows, and what a reasonable person in the duty holder’s position (e.g. a person in the same industry) would reasonably be expected to know. This is commonly referred to as the state of knowledge.

Knowledge about the hazard or risk It is reasonably practicable for a duty-holder to:

• Proactively take steps to identify hazards within their business or undertaking before they cause an incident, injury or illness. This should be done before the activity is undertaken or the circumstances occur that result in the risk.

• Understand the nature and degree of any harm that an identified hazard may cause, how the harm could occur, and the likelihood of the harm occurring. It is also reasonably practicable for a duty-holder to consider and understand, within the available state of knowledge, how the following may cause or increase hazards and risks:

• potential failure of plant, equipment, systems of work or safety measures

• human error or misuse, spontaneity, panic, fatigue or stress, and

• interaction between multiple hazards that may, together, cause different risks.

Equipment to eliminate or minimize a hazard or risk is regarded as being available if it is provided on the open market, or if it is possible to manufacture it. A work process (or change to a work process) to eliminate or minimize a hazard or risk is regarded as being available if it is feasible to implement. A way of eliminating or minimizing a hazard or risk is regarded as suitable if it:

• is effective in eliminating or minimizing the likelihood or degree of harm from a hazard or risk;

• does not introduce new and higher risks in the circumstances; and

• is practical to implement in the circumstances in which the hazard or risk exists. The hierarchy of risk controls The ways of controlling risks are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. This ranking is known as the hierarchy of risk control.

The OH&S Regulations require duty-holders to work through this hierarchy to choose the control that most effectively eliminates or minimizes the risk in the circumstances.

Ø A duty-holder must eliminate health and safety risks so far as is reasonably practicable. If there are no available or suitable ways to eliminate a hazard or risk, then a duty-holder must consider all available and suitable ways to minimize risks, so far as is reasonably practicable by: substituting a hazard with something, or a number of things, that gives rise to a lesser risk

Ø isolating the hazard from any person exposed to it Ø implementing engineering controls If there is a remaining risk, it must be minimized so far as is reasonably practicable by implementing administrative controls, and if a risk still remains, then suitable personal protective equipment must be provided and used. How far a control may minimize risk, on its own or together with other controls, should be considered when weighing up what can reasonably be done. Some of the controls may lower the likelihood of harm, others may lower the degree of harm that may result, and some may lower both.

Where the cost of implementing risk controls is grossly disproportionate to the risk – e.g. the cost of engineering changes to plant will be high and there is only a slight risk of minor sprains – then this may mean the use of those controls is not reasonable and not required. This does not, however, mean that the duty-holder is excused from doing anything to minimize the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. It may simply mean that a less expensive way of minimizing the likelihood or degree of harm may instead be used. If a risk cannot be removed, you must minimize it by doing one or more of these things:

·        substituting (wholly or partly) the hazard with something with a lesser risk

·        isolating the hazard from any person exposed to it

·        implementing engineering controls (if the risk remains you must implement administrative controls)

·        use personal protective equipment.

If these controls do not fully eliminate or minimize the risk, the you must implement administrative controls and then, if appropriate, ensure the provision of suitable personal protective equipment. A combination of controls may be used to minimize a risk if a single control is not sufficient.

In determining control measures, you should identify and consider everything that may be relevant to the hazards and risks and the means of eliminating or minimizing the risks.

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