Minimising WHS Risks –What Does Reasonably Practicable Mean?

Weekly WHS Article 18th January 2022

The most important actions in managing WHS risks in your workplace involves eliminating risks so far as is reasonably practicable, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimising the risks so far as is reasonably practicable – see section 17 of the WHS Act.


The rewards for achieving success in satisfying section 17 includes the creation of a safe and healthy workplace and compliance with requirements of the WHS Act.


However, though actions have been taken in your workplace to minimise risk so far as reasonably practicable, you may like to have more certainty on what “reasonably practicable” means.


How is ‘reasonably practicable’ defined?

Section 18 of the WHS Act tells us that;

“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:


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

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

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

  4. (d) the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk, and

  5. (e) after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.”


Interpretive Guideline – The Meaning of Reasonably Practicable.

This Guideline was created and published by Safe Work Australia and is 7 pages long. The first paragraph tells us that;


“This document provides guidance on the interpretation and application of the term ‘reasonably practicable’ in considering the standard of health and safety that a person conducting a business or undertaking (the duty-holder) is expected to meet under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and Regulations.”


Examples of Content from the 7 pages.

Page 1 – “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 WHS Act which include the aim of ensuring that workers are provided with the highest level of protection that is reasonably practicable.”


Page 4 – “A way of eliminating or minimising a hazard or risk is regarded as suitable if it:

  • is effective in eliminating or minimising 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.”


You can download a PDF copy of the Safe Work Australia Guideline from their website Here

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/interpretive_guidelin

e_-_reasonably_practicable.pdf




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18th January 2022

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