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    Nadine Cranenburgh

    There are two main approaches to the management of (safety) risk. These are:

    • Managing risks to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP). That is, reduction of risk levels until they are below target risk criteria and are therefore ‘tolerable’ or ‘acceptable’. If risk levels for identified hazards are determined to exceed target risk criteria then risk treatments are put in place until target risk criteria are met. At this point the risk has been reduced as low as reasonably practicable. Target risk criteria are identified on a subjective basis and generally differ between organisations
    • Reducing risks so far as is reasonably practicable (SFAIRP). This is the common law due diligence approach and the obligation under the provisions of the Work Health & Safety legislation. That is, implementing all reasonable precautions for all credible, critical threats, with a focus on ensuring that (at a minimum) recognised good practice is in place. When no further practicable precautionary options are considered reasonable in all the circumstances, due diligence has been demonstrated by reducing the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.

    Both the ALARP and SFAIRP approaches aim to demonstrate due diligence and require three main steps:

    • identify safety hazards relating to the situation
    • determine and implement appropriate precautions to address these hazards
    • ensure confidence that these precautions are maintained over time.

    The key steps in the ALARP and SFAIRP approaches are shown below in the diagram below.



    Diagram courtesy of Richard Robinson, R2A

    Key advantage of the SFAIRP approach over the ALARP approach is a focus on reasonable precautions rather than risk levels. The SFAIRP approach facilitates:

    • identification and implementation of recognised good practice, that is, precautions shown to be reasonable by virtue of their implementation in similar situations (e.g. elsewhere in the industry) irrespective of perceived acceptable or tolerable risk levels
    • a focus on the hierarchy of controls when identifying precautionary options. The SFAIRP approach requires all practicable precautionary options to be tested for reasonableness, rather than to stop testing options once a ‘tolerable’ level of risk is reached
    • identification of other (further) precautionary options and judging their reasonableness on the benefit they provide compared to the time, difficulty and expense required for their implementation. This is consistent with decisions of the High Court of Australia, for example, in Wyong Shire Council v Shirt.


    The information on this page was primarily sourced from:

    • Robinson Richard M and Gaye E Francis (2019). Engineering Due Diligence (11th Edition). R2A Pty Ltd, Consulting Engineers.

    Edited by Nadine Cranenburgh

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