Revised May 2003
1.1 The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for making adequate arrangements for the enforcement of health and safety legislation in the UK. In fulfilment of its duty, the Executive provides guidance to its regulatory staff who have to judge whether measures put in place, or proposed, by those who are under a duty to control and reduce risks “as low as reasonably practicable” (ALARP), are acceptable.
1.2 This document provides guidance on what constitutes good practice and on how relevant application of good practice contributes to the duty to reduce risks ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ (SFAIRP) or demonstrate that risks have been reduced ALARP. It complements, ‘Principles and Guidelines to assist HSE in its judgements that duty-holders have reduced risk as low as reasonably practicable’’ and “Policy and guidance on reducing risks as low as reasonably practicable in Design”. Together, these three documents have been issued as guidance in support of the HSE document “Reducing Risks, Protecting People” (R2P2).
Within HSE and in this document, good practice is the generic term for those standards for controlling risk which have been judged and recognised by HSE as satisfying the law when applied to a particular relevant case in an appropriate manner.
Explanatory notes to the definition.
Written good practice may take many forms. The scope and detail of good practice will reflect the nature of the hazards and risks, the complexity of the activity or process and the nature of the relevant legal requirements.
Sources of written, recognised good practice include:
Other written sources which may be recognised include:
3.1 In support of the following policy, HSE:
(a) provides guidance to inspectors on the law, its interpretation by the courts, and on good practice;
(b) maintains mechanisms to guide the exercise of inspector discretion in order to promote consistency in assessing compliance and deciding on a proportionate response.
3.2 In securing compliance with the law in accordance with the HSC Enforcement Policy principles of proportionality, consistency, targeting, transparency and accountability, HSE inspectors take account of the legal interpretations given in statute, relevant case law and the guidance in ‘Principles and Guidelines to assist HSE in its judgements that duty-holders have reduced risk as low as reasonably practicable’ which contains specific advice on the application of good practice.
3.3 To promote effective compliance and improved health and safety performance by duty-holders, HSE may develop and recognise good practice and draw this to their attention. In some circumstances, to promote consistent, cost-effective assessment by inspectors, HSE makes use of good practice to guide decisions when judging the adequacy of compliance and applying the differing legal tests, (e.g. ‘absolute’, ‘practicable’ or ‘reasonably practicable’).
3.4 In judging compliance, HSE expects duty-holders to apply relevant good practice as a minimum. For new plant/installations/situations, this will mean the application of current good practice. For existing plant/installations/situations, this will mean the application of current good practice to the extent necessary to satisfy the relevant law.
3.5 Where the law requires risks to have been reduced ALARP, HSE:
3.6 Compliance with relevant good practice alone may be sufficient to demonstrate that risks have been reduced ALARP. For example, recognised standards provide a realistic framework within which equipment designers, manufacturers and suppliers (including importers) can fulfil their general duties under HSWA S.6.
3.7 However, depending on the level of risk and complexity of the situation, it is also possible that meeting good practice alone may not be sufficient to comply with the law. For example, in high hazard situations (those with the potential to harm large numbers of people in a single event), where the circumstances are not fully within the scope of the good practice, additional measures may be required to reduce risks ALARP. Furthermore, where the potential consequences are high, HSE will take a precautionary approach by giving more weight to the use of sound engineering and operational practice than to arguments about the probability of failure.
3.8 In simple terms, in situations such as described in paragraph 3.7, duty-holders need to:
3.9 In judging and recognising good practice, HSE must be satisfied that it is correctly formulated in that it:
3.10 When reviewing health or safety measures on an existing plant, installation or situation (such as when considering retrofitting, safety reviews or upgrades), duty-holders should compare existing measures against current good practice. The good practice measures set out should be adopted so far as is reasonably practicable. It might not be reasonably practicable to apply retrospectively to existing plant, for example, all the good practice expected for new plant. However, there may still be ways to reduce the risk e.g. by partial solutions, alternative measures etc.
3.11 In determining what is reasonably practicable, the starting point for the risk/sacrifice computation should be the current situation. Duty-holders should also consider the adequacy of the relevant good practice (paragraphs 2.1.e. & f. are appropriate considerations). When a code or standard is updated to a higher standard, the plant, installation or situation should be examined to see if it can be brought up to the new standard. Any such upgrades should be undertaken if reasonably practicable.
3.12 New plant, installations or situations should conform to current good practice, as a starting point. Other potential options should be considered to determine whether further risk reduction measures are reasonably practicable. As a guide, designers can aim and compare against levels of safety that are known to have been achieved in other “best practice” designs.
3.13 The use of good practice at the design stage is essential to demonstrating achievement of ALARP. This should include use of sound design principles (e.g. inherent safety) as well as codes, standards and guidance. Further advice is given in “Policy and guidance on reducing risks as low as reasonably practicable in Design”
3.14 In prioritising its resources, HSE may decide in an individual case not to pursue further action where a duty-holder has reduced risk to within the ‘broadly acceptable’ region of the TOR framework (see R2P2, para.122ff, for an explanation of this framework) and only a small reduction in risk would be achieved.” However, the legal duty to reduce risks ALARP remains.
Updated on the HSE website 17 June 2003