The principle of reducing risks ALARP


ALARP thinking

The principle of reducing risks ALARP (As Low As Reasonably Practicable) adds in to the mix a legal imperative for continuous improvement. In a nutshell, for new equipment the ALARP principle requires compliance with relevant codes and standards and adoption of good practice elsewhere as a minimum, together with consideration of options for improvement, which can only be discounted if the time, trouble and cost are grossly disproportionate to the benefit. If these improvements are subsequently enshrined in updated standards or deemed to be relevant good practice, this becomes the new baseline.

The problem is compounded when more and more preferential requirements are added into standards by well intentioned technical authorities â?? something that is quite common in large operators with their own engineering standards. The standards can become complex, difficult to comply with and may even lead to design solutions where the associated safety risk is actually higher than a simpler, cheaper design based on inherent safety thinking. Moreover, it is difficult to see how raising standards ad infinitum is sustainable, economically speaking.

Quite clearly, the solution to this conundrum is to think hard about the potential applicability of standards and make clear the distinction between essential and nice-to-have requirements in varying circumstances. At a high level this could take the form of specifying when certain standards as a whole apply (and when they donâ??t). At a more detailed level, with in standards themselves, there is plenty of scope for spelling out any relaxations or offering alternative risk-based avenues of compliance.

Why do things go wrong?

Relating to a simple tank overfill event that escalated into catastrophic explosion and fire, causing significant damage to the terminal and surrounding business and residential neighbours.

At the end of the investigation , there are 3 simple questions to be answered :

  1. Do we understand what can go wrong
  2. Do we know what our systems are to prevent this happening
  3. Do we have information to assure us they are working effectively


In a world where spiraling costs in the name of safety are a recipe for project cancellations, the clear message to operators and professional bodies is to build risk-based flexibility into otherwise black and white standards.

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