The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

ALARP and Risk Management Planning

Graham Marshall - Sunday, May 20, 2012

In developing any HSE Risk Management Plan (RMP), the organization must show that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the RMP demonstrates that the  risk associated with the business venture is being reduced to "as low as reasonably practicable" (ALARP).

So ALARP is a very powerful concept because it allows - and demands - outcomes that are reasonable under the given circumstances.

For that reason, the principle of ALARP has long been applied in the oil patch.  So what does ALARP mean?

The legal definition for ALARP was defined in an English courtroom in 1949.

In a legal case heard by Lord Justice Asquith (Edwards v National Coal Board, 1949), Asquith said:

Reasonably practicable is a narrower term than ‘physically possible’ and seems to me 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.” 

Using that definition, any Risk Management Plan must demonstrate that any additional "costs" (time, money, resources, etc) that are required to reduce the risk of the business venture further would be grossly disproportionate to the risk reduction being made.

So the ALARP test is for organizations to demonstrate in their RMPs that the options chosen to reduce risks are those which are reasonably practicable.

Conversely, they may need to demonstrate that other options - which may be "physically possible" - but which have not been selected are not reasonably practicable.

When planning any oil field activity, organizations should ask themselves:

“Can we reasonably be expected to implement a better risk management option than the one we've chosen?”

If the answer to that question is "yes"; then your business is almost certainly NOT at the ALARP level. 


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