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Topic 20: ALARP concept and health and safety of personel, equipments and the work environment. Friends or foe.

oseghale lucas okohue's picture

Discuss the concept of ALARP as it relates to health and safety of personels, equipments and the work environs.


Mykola Mamykin's picture

ALARP is the key concept used in UK for the Risk Management which arises from UK Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. This is not to say that other countries do not use it, but it is most likely called “good engineering practice”.


The risk is considered As Low As Reasonably Practicable when it is possible to demonstrate that the cost involved in reducing the risk further would be grossly disproportionate to the benefit gained, and therefore ALARP is common practice of judgment of the balance of risk and societal benefit.


To determine if risk is ALARP cost-benefit analysis should be made to compare the risk assessed with the money, time and efforts needed to mitigate it.


ALARP can be considered as an attribute of goal-setting legislation versus prescriptive one and in former the duty holder (say, employer) is responsible to demonstrate to the regulator that the risk to the personnel is ALARP.


I would definitely say that ALARP principle is the “Friend” of safety and risk management.



Brief History of Health and Safety regulations by J. Munro

Aaron McKenna's picture

ALARP seems a very reasonable way to approach the risk
management since it acknowledges that never will we achieve 100% absolute
safety and it is indeed an essential part of goal setting legislation. Having
only recently been introduced to the concept of ALARP my initial issue with it
is that it is very much driven by the cost involved in safety measures. Ultimately
does this not lead to a debate in which potentially human lives and injuries
are translated to a monetary value? Surely if a hazard has the capability of
causing x no. of human fatalities, its danger must be mitigated, no matter what
the price. Or if this cost is astronomical, or if mitigation is currently impossible,
do we consider it inherently unsafe? Or does that then depend on the risk
involved (i.e. the probability of the hazard occurring)?

oseghale lucas okohue's picture

Thank you very much Aaron and mykola for your wealth of contribution to ALARPBefore we continue this debate further, let’s have an understanding of where the ALARP concept originated: ALARP history was dated back to the mining legislation of the 1870s. From where it was then brought into the Factories Act and then passed on into the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974. It was not until after the Second World War that this expression obtained the status of a major principle in safety legislation.  Lord Justice Asquith in Edwards v NCB (1949) the concept originator 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 - risk being insignificant in relation to the sacrifice – the defendants discharge the onus on them. Moreover, this computation falls to be made by the owner at a point of time anterior to the accident"  From this expression we could denote that the risk is considered As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) when it is possible to demonstrate that the cost involved in reducing the risk further would be grossly disproportionate to the benefit gained. On this point I agree with mykola. Aaron I agree to disagree with you that ALARP is much more about the cost involved in safety measures because it’s obvious that it is a common practice of judgment of the balance of risk and societal benefit, although the risk involved is quantified in terms of cost, time etc. It should be noted that is for the balance of risk and societal benefit. A more proactive approach to risk management than a reactive one in a typical work environs. Aaron you could through more light on your point for further clearity. Now, from Lord Justice Asquith in Edwards definition he cited that “Reasonably practicable' is a narrower term than 'physically possible'”.  Can someone through more light on this.

Toby Stephen's picture

Aaron raises a very interesting issue on whether monetary value is placed on human life and/or injuries. Although the justice system in industrial nations considers human life to be 'priceless', I don't think that this is the way the world operates.

From a statistical perspective, it's a necessity to estimate the value of life in order to judge whether a certain safety regulation is cost effective. This feeds into the ALARP argument and Mykola's point about the balance of risk and societal benefit. Nobody wants to accept that they're a 'statistic' but ultimately it's a pre-requisite for cost-benefit analysis.

In the US for example this is estimated at approximately $5 million per person, and if a safety code will cost more than this for each person it will save then "regulators eyes start to glaze over, they say it is too expensive" [1].


[1] -       


Toby Stephen
MSc Oil & Gas Engineering

Menelaos Michelakis's picture

(ALARP - A scenario with numbers)

I agree with Toby Stephen's statement, and i wish to make a simple example : ''Nobody wants to accept  that they are a statistic but ultimately it is a pre-requisite for cost benefit analyses''.The example is very simple and the solution is easy to guess, i just added a few more numbers to make it interesting.

Example : Safety of workers - ALARP, here it means, to reduce the risk of an accident, as much as possible, with a series of logic actions. As an engineer i will try to use numbers. Having worked in a quarry for a couple of months, i shall set the following example : Let's suppose that i am engineer in a quarry and i have to take care of 400 workers. Every worker must be protected as good as possible, and the company must pay for the proper equipment. Each worker must wear (obligatory) : 1. Specially designed helmet (20£), 2. Crude boots (20£), 3. Crude gloves (14£). Safety can be increased further by wearing : 4. Specially designed jackets (35£), 5. Specially designed trousers (65£). The above items need to be replaced every year. If a worker wears all items safety is increased 100%.

For each item, the safety ratios and the total costs per year are:

Helmets : (increase safety 20%) , total cost per year : 8000£

Gloves : (increase safety 20%), total cost per year : 5600£

Boots : (increase safety 20%), total cost per year : 8000£

Jackets : (increase safety 35%), total cost per year :14000£

Trousers : (increase safety 5%, total cost per year : 26000£

If a worker wears jeans (company pays nothing), instead of specially designed trousers, safety is increased 1% instead of 5%. So safety of the uniform is 96% instead of 100%.

The question here is : '' Is it reasonable for the company, just for a 0.04 increase in safety to may more than a 100,000£ over the next 4 years '' ? ( I am sure that each worker would prefer the specially designed trousers Sealed  !!).

Total cost with trousers per year : 61600£ , Total cost without trousers : 35600£. Is it reasonably practicable for the company to pay 26000£ per year, just for a 4% increase ? Of course, this a very simple example and i think the answer is obvious...

To summarize : ALARP, is a quality term. As engineers we ought to use numbers, and this is why i set the above example, which - by the way - is completely out of my mindWink, but what would you do as company (engineer), and what would you request as a worker ?



Aaron McKenna's picture

Having now had this discussion I now seem to understand the
concept of the phrase ALARP much better. I definitely see how what Toby and
Oseghale have mentioned plays into ALARP and tend to agree that in the initial
risk assessment costs or numerical values are perhaps all we have to work with
to make a decision on whether a risk is being made or deemed ALARP. As Lord
Justice Asquith’s comment stating that “reasonably practicable is a narrower
term than physically possible”. This very much fits directly in with the term
ALARP. Essentially it differentiates between a mitigation action being actually
possible and whether that then is viable for implementation. If it is possible
but not viable I believe we would deem that outside of the ALARP category. For
instance as an extreme scenario, for road safety and in an attempt to reduce
the number of road deaths, we could (i.e. we have the technology to) develop
cars that have a maximum speed of 50 mph.  However, is that practical or viable? Probably
not. I hope that helps clarify that statement and how it directly relates to
the term ALARP.

Mykola Mamykin's picture


Excellent points be Toby Stephen and M. Michelakis on using numbers while approaching safety.


And in general - what do you guys think about prescriptive legislation?


My $0.02: there is no way it could be completely avoided and goal-setting regulatory framework used instead.


Couple of examples:


- Cementing an oil well. Before Macondo accident, Operators needed to convince MMS that their procedures are safe ALARP. After explosion - BOEMRE (no more MMS) issued several prescriptive recommendations on the subjects, like borehole to be at least 3 inches bigger then the casing, two mechanical barriers etc.


- In Shipping, International Maritime Organization promotes Safety at Sea through various Conventions like SOLAS, MARPOL etc. They use wording like "this and this to be safe as far as practicable".

All concerned parties subsequently enquire: "well, what exactly does it mean?".  Then IMO, through its subcommittee like MSC or through IACS will issue Unified Interpretations saying: "this and this shall be 450mm from that and that".


In these cases - prescriptive wins.

Aaron McKenna's picture

I wish to respond to a few points made by Mykola regarding his favour towards prescriptive legislation. Since every facility and system is unique (i.e. never have exactly the same location, specifications, measurements etc.) if we were to revert to purely prescriptive legislation this would potentially entail an independent regulator visiting each site and setting specific regulations for each and every component. This case by case regulation is obviously not viable. I understand that using goal setting legislation the safety requirements are essentially made by the company and therefore may differ from another facility in which that specific risk may have been considered greater or less. It must be remembered that in current society companies are driven by the need to make safe facilities in fear of the backlash they would receive, if an incident did occur due to negligence or ignorance of a risk, in the hope of cutting corners. These decisions also need to be validated by evidence proving that they have/had reduced the risk to ALARP. As presented in lectures this allows new technologies and improvements to be facilitated without the complete overhaul of the legislation. Thus I tend to disagree that prescriptive legislation is the complete answer.

Mykola Mamykin's picture

Never ment to say I am in personal favour of presecriptive legislation.

I provided a couple of examples, showcasing the fact that it can not be in all circumstances replaced by goal-setting.

Appreciate you comment though.

michael saiki's picture

To contribute to what you all are saying, sure there can't be one single perspective or instrument/document that can completely define the requirment of safety and as we have historically seen that man pushes himself further to minimize the risks and optimize safety as previous safety templates fail, it is therefore certain from scholarly perspectives and experience that both the Prescriptive and Safety case models in isolation cannot be effective.

It is therefore important that legislation be reviewed to both simulate or integrate the two philosophies. If we must advance safety models proactively then now is the time to ask for a new model that will integrate or distribute responsibilities to both the operator and the regulator. As we have agreed that "Industry standards is no standards" and Regulator standards is not effective because it is not universal

Finally, if both the regulator and the regulated share in the formulation of any safety model irrespective of the location or individual circumstances it would most likely be a ROBUST model

Michael Saiki

Aaron McKenna's picture

No problem Mykola. I definitely agree with you there that legislation has to come in both forms. (Not expected a point for this response by the way!)


Just like what Toby has said it's very necessary to
estimate the value of life in order to judge whether a certain safety
regulation is cost effective or not but unfortunately it is hard to set a price
for a human being. The ALARP principle talks of the risk being allowable at its
assessed value if the cost of risk reduction is disproportionally high compared
with the benefits but to me i believe this measure is not fair enough because
it looks more at the costs involved other than looking at the possible
fatalities that could be caused.

The ALARP principle is so subjective and its effectiveness
is mainly dependant on the policy makers/owners of the business who make a
computation in which ''the quantum of risk is placed on one scale and the
sacrifice involved in the measures necessary to overcome the risk for example money,
time or trouble is placed in the other'' like Lucas has already said, but as you all know cost reduction is
vital for most companies which want to maximise profits and therefore certain
good measures to reduce risk may be omitted due to the costs associated with

Much of the benefits of ALARP seem to be in line
with production, income and not fatalities. I think human safety is key because
for any production to take place, you need a workforce and the success of any
organisation will depend on the work force; Even though cost reduction is
always a priority for most organisations, safety of employees in any
organisation should be given the first priority while assessing risk
irrespective of whether the cost of risk reduction is higher compared to the
benefits or not because it is hard to value a human being.


John Bosco Aliganyira

Msc.Oil and Gas Engineering


Elvis.E.Osung's picture

@ Johnson i aggree with you, There is some form of ambiguity associated with the ALARP concept, measuring efforts towards safety against invested resources is quite biased and subjective.  When decisions are subjective, there is usually no standard of measurement.  Subjective decisions are prone to private interpretations, arguments and litigations. Safety considerations should be properly spelt out without room for ambiguity. ALARP has tendency of exposing humans to some levels of risk as long as organisations can demonstrate in finances that efforts have been made to control the risk. This approach is not as proactive as expected. This brings us to the issue of the value placed on a human life. i dont think cost should be a yard stick for accessing ALARP.

oseghale lucas okohue's picture

Hi.... I quite see reason with mykola and Aaron post on prescriptive legislation. Before I comment. let’s have a clear definition of prescriptive legislation. Prescriptive Legislation simply refers to Statutory codes which specify exactly the conditions for compliance and often the means by which they should be achieved. This statory code is a general code that applies to all particular organisations irrespective of the integrity or safety measures used internally within the organisation. I.e. offshore companies in UK have a statory code that must be complied with as stipulated out by the HSE for activities offshore.  Now looking at the goal oriented approach let’s look at the definition of a goal. A goal is an observable and measurable end result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed timeframe. It therefore means that the goal oriented approach entails more on individual system assessment of risk and safety measures within a particular organisation.Note that this applies to individual companies, since all companies are not exposed to the same level of risk. Coming to mykola and Aaron discussion. I think both the prescriptive legislation approach and the goal oriented approach should be put in place and dully followed by the company personnel’s for optimum safety. But total dependence should not be place on the prescriptive approach because it is a more general approach to safety as different organisations or companies are exposed to different level of risk within the organisation. In conclusion having ensured that the prescriptive legislation is in place. Companies can then focus on the gaol oriented approach to ensure that risk or hazard in the work environs is reduced as low as reasonable practice.    Read more:

oseghale lucas okohue's picture

Hi John..... This is a very new key interesting development. The ALARP concept principle is truly dependanton the policy makers or owners which key interest is in production optimization and so they are more kin in reduction of in any way the cost associated with any loss of life or fatal accident so as to favour the company which is solely interested in profit maximization and their for the measure of assessment especially in the case of severe fatality or death might be jeopardized in company’s favour. Totally in support of toby that human life should be give top priority but I feel if the ALARP concept is fully implemented and active, I mean fully implementation and due adherence to the prescriptive legislative approach and the proactive goal oriented approach by the company and workers involved, the risk associate with loss of life due to serious fatality will be reduced as practically possible. But if this still occurs, there should be a basis of assessing the loss of life in terms of quantificationFriends can we elaborate on quantification of loss of life in terms of estimating the value of life in order to judge whether a certain safety regulation is cost effective or not


In a view of quantification, Cost Benefit Analysis could be used for
determining ALARP level. But it should not be used for justification for
compulsory legislation which means this analysis should not be a excuse for
their obligation. This is not sole tool for make a decision but give some
direction for decision at least. UK HSE suggests reasonable measurement without
grossly disproportionate cost could be simply represented like below;

Cost/Benefit > 1xDisproportion Factor

Disproportion factor is varied by rule of
thumb; for low risks to members of the
public a factor of 2, for high risks a factor of 10
. Cost is incurred by
the duty holder because of measurement. Benefit is reduction in risk and
decreased accident. Human life is priceless but should be converted to value
with quantifiable for comparison.  Below is cash valuation;

FATALITY / £1,336,800 (times 2 for


Permanently incapacitating injury / £207,200

Serious/ £20,500



Permanently incapacitating illness/£193,100

Other cases of ill health/£2,300 + £180 per day of absence


Note: Original table cannot be uploaded as it is, so wrrite down risk and benefit only

Minimizing fluctuation by individual input, annualisation and
discounting for cost and benefit is considering. Also, sensitivity analysis is
performed for supporting cost benefit analysis' conclusion. I believe the
equation itself is very simple but objectivity in input data will be a key to
right result. More details are explained in the reference web site, Hope this





Frixos Karletides's picture

ALARP stands for “as low as reasonably practicable”. This
policy was developed in Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in order to
control risk in companies related to trouble, time and money. This principle
states that for each activity there is some sort of risk. This risk should be
reduced to suitable levels until it does not worth any further reduction that
will result to worthless cost. ALARP policy is suitable only for risks that can
be identified and then controlled. Unknown risks are difficult to be found and
reduced to a specific limit. Since the ALARP policy is essential to the work,
everyone in a company must know about it irrespective of their placement. According
to these concepts a safe working environment can be maintained since the
project and individual risks can be managed.   

Frixos  Karletides

Andrew Allan's picture

Perhaps the most important time in the lifecycle of a facility with respect to risk reduction and ALARP is at the Conceptual Design stage.  Often, insufficient attention is paid to ALARP principles at this stage of the project as the Project Manager focusses on cost/schedule in order to convince operators and joint venture partners that the project is profitable and worth progressing.  Also, at this early stage there is often no dedicated safety engineering resource embedded in the project team.

By far the greatest reduction in risk can be brought about at this stage as you select the fundamental concept for the project.  The role of a safety engineer at this phase of a project should be to guide the project team towards a design which minimises personnel exposure, reduces hazardous inventories/pressures/temperatures, reduces operational and maintenance requirements etc so that the risk to personnel is minimised.

Consider the potential risk reduction which can be realised by implementing the measures above, compared with Menelaos example of whether or not to purchase personnel protective equipment for people working at a site.  It is also more easier and more cost effective to implement risk reduction measures at this phase rather than convincing owners to make modifications to a site which is already in operation.

Andrew Allan's picture

To give you an example of applying ALARP principles in the Conceptual Design phase, a company may consider developing a new gas field and have three options for production:

- Brownfield modifications to an existing platfrom to install new riser reception and dedicated process facilities.  The platform is 25 years old and already very congested.

- Install a new bridge linked platform connected to the platform above, this will house all of the facilities needed to recieve and process the gas from the new field.

- Utilise an FPSO with shuttle tankers

The role of safety engineer would be to assess the relative risks involved in the threee options to identify the concept with the lowest risk to people and the environment.  Some points which may be considered:

- The brownfield option increases congestion on the existing platform and will introduce new fire and explosion events which may impair the temporary refuge.  The weight of the new facilities will take the structural load on the jacket to its limits and may require structural mods. Explosion risk will increase due to greater congestion.  But it is by far the least expensive.

- A Bridge linked platform allows the new facilites to be separated from the existing platfrom temporary refuge.  Design and layout of the new facilities can be optimised as they don't have to squeeze into available space on the existing platform. Latest technologies and best practises can be easily applied. This is twice the cost of the brownfield option.

- An FPSO allows greater flexibility and the opportunity to tie back other fields in the area, purchase or hire of an existing FPSO would mean modifying the vessel.  This is of comparable cost to the BLP.

Which would you choose? Do you agree there is a greater scope for reducing risks at this stage compared with making amendments to the design during detailed design/operational phase?

Aaron McKenna's picture

You make some excellent points here Andrew and I wish to agree with your thoughts regarding safety at the design stage. I also believe that safety must be considered as early as possible since this allows greater flexibility in modifications, because quite obviously construction has not begun. Ultimately then this gives us a much better handle and control on the mitigation of possible risks. i.e. simply put, we can mould the design to make it safer.  These relate very much to some of the views of Professor Moan who spoke at the LRET talk on Thursday evening. This then allows us to address known risks. I believe the trouble sometimes in implementing this completely in the past has been that at the design stage the risks, as is the facility, are not physically apparent and therefore perhaps not as clear. However, with current technology we should have the techniques and methods in place to manage these risks at the earliest possible time- the design phase. With regards to the scenario you provided, my immediate response would be to go with the BLP since this would offer you the best flexibility, allowing you to have the most control over the process. Whilst this is twice the price of the brownfield option the risk reductions would be worth this cost, in my opinion (however that is without quantifying the actual scenario). I feel it also beats the hire of the FPSO since that too requires modifications which would suggest your options are somewhat limited to the current configuration of the FPSO.

Mark Nicol's picture

Interesting blog Andrew. I haven’t got much experience from a
topsides perspective, but I would guess that this seems like quite a
substantially large new development.


I think option 1 would be the preferred option to the operator due
to the cost, compared to the other two options. However, as the platform is 25
years old and the modifications for the new gas field would as you say, structurally
load the jacket to its limits, this option would probably not be viable. I’m not
sure if this would be discontinued at the conceptual stage, as more detailed
structural design would be required to establish the feasibility of the option.
I think if this optioned was eventually carried forward, there would have to
extensive subsea inspection to establish the structural integrity of the jacket


Option 2 if I’m reading it right, is to install a new platform
with a bridge linked to the existing platform. I know these types of facilities
exist already, but yes they would be very expensive, and you have to remember,
eventually you have to decommission and remove the facilities at the end of
field life. Depending on the size of the new gas field this might not be economically


I would have to opt for the FPSO, option 3, if option one wasn’t feasible,
as OK, there would be modification to suit the existing facilities, but at the
end of field life the decommissioning costs will be significantly reduced.



 As for reducing risks, this
should be assessed at each stage of the design stages to ensure the final chosen
design has been reduced to as low as reasonably practical with respect to risks
and safety.

Kareem Saheed Remi's picture

Considering the fact that the existing platform is 25 years
old, though the design life is not stated but one can conveniently say that the
platform is fast approaching its design life. With this in view, there is high
risk involve in tying  new riser
reception and processing facility increase the over-weight on the legs of
already “weak” platform, and more so it involves great deal of management of
change (MOC) on the existing facility to achieve the result safely. No matter
the adequacy of MOC done, the risk of fire/explosion or other unwanted
situations cannot be totally removed. Therefore, in my opinion, Option 1 is NOT
viable though less expensive.

On the other hand, having a separate platform link with
existing one with bridge will still create congestion on the existing platform,
should anything go wrong more personnel will be involved. Considering the
greater flexibility of FPSO and ease of modification for other project when
future business plan is considered, FPSO would be a safer option though with
high cost associated As Low As Reasonably Practicable. 

Kareem R. Saheed

Kareem Saheed Remi's picture

ALARP is generally a subjective
measure of risk management, which differs from industry to industry even within
the same industry depending on the operating conditions in term of the
environment, the facility, type of product and even the management. In every
situation there are minimum standards set by regulatory bodies and engineering
standards which serve as guide for individual facility to cast its safety net,
but in most cases it should not go below what regulatory standards state.

 In the light of this, the manager has
risk-based decision to make, which implies that he or she has in mind some
values for the level of acceptable risk that they are ready to accept base on
the outcome of the risk assessment tool used (e.g HAZOP). In other not to
accept too much of risk, it is always advisable to stay above stipulated

In summary, engineering standards, and
other regulations, can provide guidance for well-understood risks in standard situations,
but, regardless of what guidance is provided, at the end of the day, the
manager has a risk-based decision to make. That decision implies that some
estimate of ‘acceptable risk’ has to be made.


Kareem R. Saheed

From my point of view this is the best topic here since by reading my classmate's post(especially first ones which are in the style of a debate), I perceived the concept of ALARP.Now, I want to elaborate on this issue by discussing a graph.

As you see in the graph,5 systems of risk control are available. The fist and second one are not applicable because the risk levels are above the tolerable level.The levels of risk at third and fourth one are tolerable.But with a small cost, we can reduce the risk(5th one).But in the sixth one we can see that for reducing the risk the cost rises sharply.In other words for mitigating a low percentage of risk level we should pay alot which isnot reasonably practicible. So we should reduce the risk to the level which is ALARP which is the 5th system of risk level control. Not 6th and not 4th.

I'm in trouble how to insert a jpeg or a word document(my graph) here. I apologize fot this but I could not attach the diagram to my post.Please let me know if anybody knows how to insert. I will insert the picture later.


Henry Tan's picture

Email me the figure, and I may be able to help.

oseghale lucas okohue's picture

Thank you very much for your various contributions on ALARP.Nina so sorry for that, use the attach picture icon on your chat. Having understood the concept of ALARP with much debate.Can we discuss the difference between AS LOW AS REASONABLE PRACTICABLE (ALARP) and SO FAR AS REASONABLE PRACTISABLE (SFARP). These two terms used by the HSE especially in the UK seems contradictory. Lets argue  for or against.

Mykola Mamykin's picture

A great lecture was delivered by J. Munro last Tuesday.

He talked about prescriptive and goal-setting legislation, SFAIRP and ALARP and demonstrated “moving down the ALARP” triangle.


Two things particularly brought my attention:


- If I heard right, he mentioned that in Offshore industry (in UK) the cost of reducing a fatality, when it starts to be considered a “grossly disproportionate” is around 67Mil pounds?! No doubt UK legislative regime is considered world’s best and serves as a prototype for other countries.


-  He mentioned several times that SFAIRP and ALARP are virtually the same in the intended purposes, which is of course logical. He also mentioned that once in ALARP area of triangle, a company would stop throwing money into risk reduction under ALARP principle but would probably go further under SFAIRP principle. So the latter is stricter?


Did I get this right?



UK legislative Framework lecture by J. Munro

Aaron McKenna's picture

is an interesting point raised by Oseghale and Mykola. According to the
official HSE website “The two terms mean essentially the same thing and at
their core is the concept of “reasonably practicable”; this involves weighing a
risk against the trouble, time and money needed to control it” (1). This is
very much what Munro said.

Further down in the same HSE article, it claims that the only time that the two need
distinguishing is when “you are drafting formal legal documents when you must
use the correct legal phrase” (1). Surely this distinction in the court setting
would imply that there is more than a negligible difference between the two

Redmill of Newcastle University, however, offers the best insight that I could
find. He states that: “In the absence of other guidance on how to go about
reducing risks SFAIRP, the UK’s principal safety regulator, the Health and
Safety Executive, proposed the ALARP Principle, which is a strategic approach
based on a model” (2). Essentially, the ALARP principle was put in place as a guide
to achieving SFAIRP. The ALARP principle is as such regarded as a “bridge”
between the law and engineers. ALARP is applied by engineers in the present to
attempt to achieve SFAIRP. SFAIRP is ultimately how the court will view the
situation, in the future when/if an incident arises. Redmill asserts that
because of the time in which they are assessed the two principles cannot be
considered the same.  In achieving ALARP
now does not necessarily guarantee it will be viewed as SFAIRP by a judge in 6 months’
time. Since also that they are looked at from two different professional
perspectives, again, means that they are not interchangeable.

does not make note of the other point mentioned by Mykola. This was that Munro
claimed that if a measure was possible it would have to be implemented on the
basis of SFAIRP but not necessarily to achieve ALARP. This, for me, is where
the contradiction that Oseghale mentioned lies. How can two terms mean “the
same” and yet require quite different approaches to risk management?

Having said that..... Although it is intriguing to understand the difference, I do feel that maybe we are getting too caught up in this ALARP vs SFAIRP debate. If HSE say they are effectively the same, surely that is a good enough understanding at this stage.



Tony Morgan's picture



Does anyone have examples of SFAIRP ? being different from ALARP?  as although i agree that they are sujective and can be interpreted differently depending on the time of review as noted previously......i really cannot see any difference in the INTENT.

As also noted  - one being in the language of law and the other being a more recognised term by the engineering community.

There seems to be conflict even in the research - Case law suggests

Edwards v. National Coal Board (1949) 

that as long as the risk is low and cost to mitigate high then no case to answer!

 however in a later case

Marshall v. Gotham (1954)

the following was stated ''The judge ruled in this case that if a precaution is practicable it must be taken unless in the whole circumstances it would be unreasonable. The term is now generally interpreted to mean that whatever is technically possible in the light of current knowledge must be carried out. The cost, time and trouble are NOT to be taken into account in arriving at a decision.''

suggesting that the original proposition which is more in line with ALARP is no longer considered correct and cost and efforts are not be considered thereby leaving the door open to potential prosecution and a real concern over the subjectiveness of the issue....i can only presume that in current or most recent legislation where ALARP is applied that we have moved back to a balance between the costs and efforts in relation to the risk presumably i would say based around the breadth of technology available and the emphasis being rightly based upon the assessment of the risk and the drive to make it LOW. The LOW is still subjective but various fairly common levels are generally used / accepted for Risk scoring to get the concerns into the LOW risk areas.

the concepts of gross disproportion, precautionary principle and tolerable risk are considered as useful in the DUTY HOLDER demonstrating and evidencing his process for ALARP, RISK review, Good practice and engineering judgement being effective. It is clear that a RISK MANAGEMENT PROCESS is required to provide a holistic approach to design and technical safety management throughout a project or facility and that this demonstration by many various means is the only real way of avoiding potential prosecution in the event of an unlikely or unprobable event.

In summary i guess we are back onto CONTINIOUS IMPROVEMENT in RISK MANAGEMENT.


regards tony morgan

Tony Morgan's picture




6.7M or 6.9M is more like the cost of a human life, NOT 67M..................regards tony morgan

c.ejimuda's picture


ALARPS or SFAIRP principle is friendly because before considering an operation safe from major accident hazard, the dutyholder/operator should be able to demonstrate that its operation, installation, personnel onboard, systems in place and activities are carried out As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP). This can be achieved by the use of good engineering practices, Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) and Qualitative Risk Assessment.

For further demonstration of the ALARP principles especially when further reduction of risk to ALARP cannot be assessed by engineering judgement, the dutyholder/operator will carry out a Cost Benefit Analysis using QRA techniques to demonstrate that the cost of reducing the risk is reasonable or gross disproportionate. One important thing about the CBA in term of the ALARP principles is that it aids dutyholder/operator during decision making process especially when engineering principle fails. 

References:Health and Safety Executive. Principles and guidelines to assist HSE in judgements that dutyholders have reduced risk as low as reasonably practicable. [Online] (2001) Available at: [Accessed 29 October 2012]

Chukwumaijem M Ejimuda

MSC Safety and Reliability Engineering.

Ajay.Kale's picture

Ajay Kale

As low as reasonably practicable (or ALARP) is a phrase commonly used to indicate the balancing of cost and value.

In the perspective of HSE Control Framework it is also used as: As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) is the point at which the cost and effort (time and trouble) of further risk reduction is grossly disproportionate to the risk reduction achieved
Risks always have to be reduced to a level that is tolerable, and then to ALARP.
ALARP is demonstrated by showing alternatives have been considered and further risk reductions are impracticable or the costs are grossly disproportionate to the improvements gained.
This means you always have to demonstrate the next lower risk option is "unreasonable."
Options first have to be screened for minimum acceptance criteria, such as legislative requirements. This precedes the ALARP decision.
The question is not about whether the option is reasonable but whether it is permitted at all.
Only after checking against such minimum acceptance criteria can the discussion about ALARP and tolerability take place.
Processes & Tools for ALARP
The location-specific Annual HSE Plan
Risk reduction ideas from previous ALARP studies
Job hazard analysis
Audits and observations
Incident reports (e.g., HIR and follow-up)
People who work and live on or near the facilities and related operations
The general public
Non-governmental organisations
Demonstration of ALARP rests on the ability to describe clearly where, how and why the line is drawn between what is practicable and what is not

Monday Michael's picture

This post is in response to Andrew Allan's post and I would like to specifically answer the question posed at the end of his post. My answer is an emphatic YES- there is a greater chance of reducing risks (i.e. increasing safety) in an engineering process at the conceptual design phase. In the process engineering industry, this concept is known as Inherent Safety. An inherently safer approach to hazard management is one that tries to avoid or eliminate hazards, or reduce their magnitude, severity or likelihood of occurrence, by careful attention to the fundamental design and layout [1]

There are 4 main principles of Inherent safety:

1. Substitution- replace any hazardous raw material with a less hazardous one or follow a processing route that will require the use of a less hazardous material
2. Minimisation- use less of the hazardous raw material, if its use cannot be avoided i.e. if a less hazardous substitute cannot be found
3. Moderation- limit the effect of hazardous materials by using the least hazardous forms of the materials.
4. Simplification- the design of the process, equipment and procedures should be such that eliminates sources of error or complexity and also eliminates the likelihood of occurrence an undesirable event.

Usually all of these four principles can be applied more effectively at either conceptual or FEED design phases. The principle of Simplification relates more to the example given by Andrew Allan but all 4 principles can be applied in one way or the other to most engineering processes/systems.


[1], pg 4

Kingsley ENEM's picture

The term ALARP (As Low as Reasonably Practicable Risk) is the word used by regulators and company to provide a basis for deciding on the level of investment needed for safety programs. The term emanated from UK legislation, mainly the health and safety at work ACT 1974, which obliges "provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are, so for as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.

A risk is simply ALARP once it is demonstrated that all risk reduction possibilities have been weighed, and those that are not grossly disproportionate have been adopted. The concept of "ALARP" is sometimes used for setting a value for acceptable risk. The basic idea behind this concept is that risk should be reduced to a level that is as low as possible without requiring excessive investment.

Engineering standards, and other professional documents, can make available guidance. Nevertheless, at the close of the period, the manager has a risk-based decision to make. That decision denotes that the manager have in their mind certain value for the level of acceptable risk that they are agreeable to accept.


Kingsley ENEM

Elle Allswell David's picture

ALARP stands
for "
as low as
reasonably practicable’’ For a risk
 to be ALARP it must be possible to
demonstrate that the cost involved in reducing the risk further would be
grossly disproportionate to the benefit gained . There is no industrial activity that
has zero risks involved so there is need to reduce risk to levels that are As
Low As Reasonably Practicable.

Risks can be
reduced by personnel by avoidance, adopting an alternative approach or
increasing the number and effectiveness of controls.

The concept of ALARP to the health and safety of
personnel will improve their safety and will also give them confidence to
deliver their duty with the understanding that the Risk involved in the process
has been reduced. It is the desire of every worker to work and go home safely
to see his loved ones. For the equipments if the risk involved has been
reduced to a minimum level it will increase their life span and the environment
will be safer and sustained for future.


ALARP means as low as resonably possible. This concept has been applied extensively today in the safety culture of the oil and Gas industry. This concept is aimed at reducing the frequency of accident by proactive measures. For example in radiation use, companies like Schlumberger apply the ALARP concept by using three main concepts: 1. Distance 2. Time of exposure 3. Shielding. The company ensures that employees are trained in radiation safety and ensures that any employee working with radioactive materials apply these three concept. This practice has helped the employees working with radioactive materials maintained minimal doses of radiation, thus removing side effects from working with radioactive materials. Also, Exxonmobil introduced its dropped object campaign in Nigeria as there were worrying trends in objects falling from heights with potential to harm people or even injuring people at the wellsite. The campaign involved hazard hunt of potential drop objects, enlightenment of personnel to stop the job when there is a  potential drop object around the working area. For Exxonmobil in ngieria, the dropped object campain has been able reduce frequency of dropped object. The ALARP concept is a safety friend that has been used as a measure to reduce accidents in the oil and gas industry and statistically has shown as a viable tool that can be used to set measures that will improve the safety culture of the oil and gas industry.


Uhunoma Osaigbovo

Subsea Engineering (DL)

Charles Stuart's picture

I guess one of the main issues with ALARP is that by its very nature it’s subjective and will relate to the values of the person or organisation implementing the control measure (e.g.  As mentioned previously, what is the value of a human life?).  Say a company assesses the cost of a life (or fatality) at £1m, and then by applying the ALARP principle, safety measures which could prevent the fatality costing £2m won’t be implemented.  If the regulator (e.g. HSE) then disagrees with the company’s subjective analysis and decides to impose a fine of £4m after an accident, then the control measure is now worth implementing. This highlights a fundamental difficulty as the process becomes circular and self referential.  Also terms such as; ‘best available technology’, ‘best operations’ or ‘high standards’ are ambiguous and open to interpretation.  Is the ‘best available technology’ the technology which is capable of reducing the risk to the ALARP level?  I think a compromise needs to be made so that ALARP can be used in conjunction with prescriptive legislation, and it seems that this is the case in reference to the HSE guidance notes on Offshore Safety Standards which cites PFEER r.17 and r.19 as falling outside the scope of ALARP (1).


Neil Fraser James Carr's picture

I agree with Charles Stuart.

idea of reducing risks to a level that is ambiguous is an excellent philosophy
in a country that is trying to balance safety and austerity. The allowance of
what is reasonable allows smaller companies with more limited resources to
follow on from the larger companies that are writing the best practices,  and try and meet the goals that are being set
out by them. As it is a non-prescriptive process a lot more consideration and
care has to be taken to fulfil the duties implied and generally if [COMPANY]  operates in a certain way then the others will

main problem I see with the UK regime and the ALARP principles are that most
large companies are not solely based here with a fragmented approach to HSEQ and
may often be working in areas where the principles are applied differently,
this can breed an attitude towards NWEA areas where the goal setting is out of
the window and compliance is their only requirement, Defeating the purpose of
the current set up.

Andreas Kokkinos's picture

ALARP is a key principle originally generated and used in the UK
legislation and more specifically from the Health and Safety at work etc. Act
1974. ALARP represents the term “as low as reasonably practicable” which
illustrates the critical safety and safety involved systems in a working
environment. The principle of ALARP results from the effort and money spent in
order to reduce a possible risk or even eliminating it entirely.

For a risk to be ALARP it must be possible to demonstrate that the cost
involved in reducing the risk further would be grossly dispropriate to the benefit
gained. Thus, ALARP describes the level of each risk in a  workplace of working environment in a way
that we expect or forecast.



Andreas Kokkinos

MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

Azeezat's picture


The Offshore
Safety Case Regulation 2005 requires the identification, evaluation and
assessment of major accident hazards. It stipulates that risk associated with
the identified major accident hazards should be reduced to a level that is ‘as
low as reasonably practicable (ALARP). This concept involves a demonstration of
the following:

of major accident hazards;

Assessment of
the consequences of major accident hazards including fire, explosion etc

evaluation of the risk associated with the consequences on personnel’s health
and safety as well as the impact on environment;

demonstration that risk associated with a particular course of action or design
concept is ALARP;

of risk an hierarchy of reduction measures to manage the major accident hazards;

An assessment
of the risk reduction benefit of the risk reduction measures;

of the risk reduction measures, where deemed to be reasonably practicable; and 

for not implementing the risk reduction measures where they have been assessed
as not reasonably practicable, either through a cost benefit analysis or other
reasonable justifiable means.

The benefits
of the implementing the concepts on the oil and gas industry will include:

major accident hazards to that similar in the scale to the Piper Alpha disaster,
where 167 lives were lost due to fire and explosion;

2.Avoid cost
of lost and differed production that may result in not implementing suitable
and sufficient risk reduction measures;

damage to the environment at the same scale as seen with the BP Macondo blowout
and the associated cost, which can be as much as £28 billion pounds in
penalties and fines;

4.Enable early
project sanction and confidence with project partners;

5.It helps prevent
late costly changes and delay to projects that be required when ALARP is not
seen by the regulator to be demonstrated; 

shareholder’s confidence in the operating companies that it has complied with
regulatory requirements;

7.It helps strengthen
the relations between an operation company and the regulator


Based on the benefits to personnel, the environment  and the wider stakeholders, it can be argued
that a concept that allows the consequential impact of major accident hazards to
personnel and the environment be reduced to a level that poses no significant
risk can be considered to be friendly.



Giorgos Hadjieleftheriou's picture

ALARP concept health and safety of personnel, equipments and the
work environment.

The ALARP initials mean “As Low as
Reasonably Practicable”. It is often used for setting up the importance for an
acceptable risk decision.  The main idea
of ALARP is to reduce any kind of risk into a reasonable level, as low as
possible, without any extra investment.  CITATION
Cop07 \l 1033 [1]

For a risk to be ALARP it must be
possible to demonstrate that the cost involved in reducing the risk further
would be grossly disproportionate to the benefit gained.
CITATION Cop07 \l 1033  [1]

 ALARP is not dogmatic and as a
result can be challenging because it requires employers to exercise judgment. So
the employer’s decision will ensure that their design theory will reduce risks.
1033 [2]





C. ©. S. T. Books,
"Sutton Technical Books," 2007. [Online]. Available:


©. O. S. Lines,
"On Safe Lines," 2003. [Online]. Available:



Igwe Veronica Ifenyinwa's picture

ALARP (as low as reasonably practicable) is a principle
to optimize risk reduction
. It is a meaningful approach to manage risk because
there is no absolute safety.

Risk at ALARP region is acceptable /tolerable as
long as you have done everything that is practical to minimise it and this risk
is undertaken only if a benefit is desired.

at ALARP region is periodically checked to ensure that they still meet the
ALARP criteria. This is done to ascertain whether further or new controls need
to be introduced to take into account changes over time, such as new knowledge
about the risk or the availability of new techniques for reducing or
eliminating risks."


Leziga Bakor's picture

In my opinion, the ALARP concept and health and safety of personnel, equipment and the work environment are friends. The ALARP concept ensures that the risk is reduce to as low as possible so far as the cost of its reduction is proportional to the reduction.  This makes the work environment and the personnel relatively safe. However it does not guarantee total safety from associated risks but it reduces the risk and it consequence. This is a positive step and that’s why I say it is a friend. If the ALARP concept was not there, some risks will be left at a very high level and put the personnel and their environment at great risk. The best scenario is that the risk be totally eliminated but this is not always possible as total elimination of the risk might cost so much more than the whole business can generate and it would make the business not to be economically viable. This will in turn make the company loose profit and the personnel lose their job. Thus ALARP helps us operate in the safest possible way where the company can make profit, operate in the best achievable way friendly to the environment and the employees keep their jobs with minimum risk to health and safety. In conclusion I would see ALARP as a friend to the personnel in terms of their health and safety, the equipment and the environment.

Ekaterina Pavlichenko's picture

As has been well discussed above, within the Oil and Gas Industry, 'as low as reasonably practicable' (ALARP) arguments are used to support either acceptance or rejection of policies or procedures that would result in changes between high and target risk considerations. But what hasn’t been clearly presented is that when considering ALARP, there is an action called ‘cost benefit analyses’ or CBA that has to be undertaken first.  

In his post Ejimuda Chukwumaijem comments on this and I’d like to take this further, CBA is used to determine if further risk reduction is ‘reasonably practical’, what that means is all risk reductions are a good thing unless the costs are considered ‘disproportionate’.  To allow this to be determined there is a formula that’s applied: The Costs of implementing the risk reduction are divided by the cost that would be seen by the benefit. To be given the green light the answer has to be greater than what is called a ‘Disproportion Factor’, this is a value that’s worked out in assessing the risk, obviously the greater the risk the higher the value.

It must be kept in mind that CBA is not on its own a justification for ALARP, but a tool to support. In HSE we use CBA to ensure that the full costs have been considered for implementing the risk, not only installation, commissioning and training, but also the production losses associated with a potential shutdown. For assessing the benefits we would look at reduced operational and maintenance costs for example, but this goes further to include the reduction of potential health hazards all which have their associated cost savings.

ALARP is a good tool and should be supported in its use in considering whether to proceed with new risk reduction policies.

Mark Haley's picture

I would like to add to Ekaterina's comment on CBA. The link at the bottom of this post gives some advice from the HSE on CBA vs ALARP and raises some very good points about the use of CBA.

As Ekaterina says CBA is a useful tool for helping decide what is ALARP, but it must not be the sole argument for ALARP and must not be a replacement for good practice and proved standards.

There are a number of major issues with CBA in that it is still extremely objective. There is no official guidance from the HSE on when costs become grossly disproportionate as every situation is dealt with on a case by case basis. So how are risk managers supposed to know when costs become grossly disproportionate??
The HSE discusses that the higher the risk the higher the degree of disproportion when considering the CBA. The HSE quotes some figures used by the Nuclear Safety Directorate (NSD) as an example, which vary from a factor of 2 to 10 depending on the risk involved.
However one thing that can be done to help make a decision when calculating your CBA is to carry out a sensitivity analysis. Those of us on the project management course will be aware of this. Because the possible fatalities/injuries or possible risk outcomes may not be fully known it is important to vary your inputs to see how the CBA outcome is affected for a variety of different scenarios. This is particularly relevant when proving that further measures are not reasonably practical.

Mark Haley

Oluwatadegbe Adesunloye Oyolola's picture

The termn"safe system" may be a reference to either absolute safety or to acceptable safety. As soon as a system is determined to be safety-critical, absolute safety may become an impossible target.

Regardless of whether an explicit value is set on human life, acceptable or relative levels of safety generally imply that there is some way of judging how much harm
either justifies more effort or demands a different approach.

The principle of As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) embodies the concept that acceptability can be influenced by the cost of improving safety. It does so by categorizing the assessment of a risk into one of three possibilities: those with so great a risk they are never acceptable, those with so little a risk they are always
acceptable, and the remaining which are acceptable provided that they have been reduced to as low as reasonably practicable and where the cost of reducing the risk further is not justified by the improvement to safety.

Not all safety standards specify an acceptable level of safety, focusing more on how to ensure and assure that an acceptable level of safety has been achieved.

Acceptable levels of safety can be based on factors including: legal requirements, the regulatory environment, the current level of safety, contractual requirements, and
corporate safety targets.



Oluwatadegbe A.O

MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

Oluwatadegbe Adesunloye Oyolola's picture

Some myths or fallacies about what ALARP means have grown up over the years. Here we explain what some of these myths are and, why they are wrong.

Fallacy 1 - Ensuring that risks are reduced ALARP means that we have to raise standards continually.

Deciding whether something is safe enough (i.e. the risk is reduced ALARP) is a separate exercise from seeking a continual improvement in standards. Our decision about
what is ALARP will also be affected by changes in knowledge about the size or nature of the risk presented by a hazard. If there is sound evidence to show that a hazard presents significantly greater risks than previously thought, then of course we should press for stronger controls to tackle the new situation. However, if the evidence shows the hazard presents significantly lesser risks than previously thought, then we should accept a relaxation in control provided the new arrangements ensure the risks are ALARP.

Fallacy 2 - If a few employers have adopted a high standard of risk control, that standard is ALARP.

Some organizations implement standards of risk control that are more stringent than good practice. They may do this for a number of reasons, such as meeting corporate social responsibility goals, or because they strive to be the best at all they do, or because they have reached an agreement with their staff to provide additional controls. It does not follow that these risk control standards are reasonably practicable, just because a few organizations have adopted them. Until such practices are evaluated and recognized by HSE as representing good practice, you should not seek to enforce them (whether at a policy level or an operational one). It is also acceptable for a duty holder to choose to relax from a self-imposed higher
standard to one which is accepted as ALARP.

Fallacy 3 - Ensuring that risks are reduced ALARP means that we can insist on all possible risk controls.

ALARP does not mean that every measure that could possibly be taken (however theoretical) to reduce risk must be taken. Sometimes, there is more than one way of controlling a risk. These controls can be thought of as barriers that prevent the risk being realized and there is a temptation to require more and more of these protective barriers, to reduce the risk as low as possible. You must remember that ALARP means that a barrier can be required only if its introduction does not involve grossly disproportionate cost.

Fallacy 4 - Ensuring that risks are reduced ALARP means that there will be no accidents or ill-health.

ALARP does not represent zero risk. We have to expect the risk arising from a hazard to be realized sometimes, and so for harm to occur, even though the risk is ALARP. This is an uncomfortable thought for many people, but it is inescapable. Of course we should strive to make sure that duty-holders reduce and maintain the risks ALARP, and we should never be complacent but, nevertheless, we have to accept that risk from an activity can never be entirely eliminated unless the activity is stopped.



Oluwatadegbe A.O

MSc Oil and Gas Engineering

amir masoud bayat's picture

The term Safe System can be a source to either absolute safety or to acceptable safety. If a system is tough to be safety-critical, absolute safety probably become an impossible goal. The main idea of As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) represent the thought that acceptability may be impacted by the cost of improving safety. Therefore, it should be into one of the three possibility of assessment of risk category: those which have little a risk are always acceptable and those which have so great a risk are never acceptable and the rest of risks which are acceptable represent that they have been decreased to (ALARP) where the price of decreasing the risk is not justified in the improvement to safety.  



Mohamed H. Metwally's picture


concept of ALARP is actually reminding me by the philosophy of engineering...

Engineering is all about
achieving balance between
safety and economics.

Now, do you agree with me that
ALARP is doing the same thing? But with one difference is that engineering do
the balance pre-production while ALARP is doing so during production. Make


Abiaziem Davidson's picture

ALARP is defined as "as low as reasonably practicable" the principle is that the residual risk shall be as low as reasonably practicable. It is a measure to reducing risks. 
For a risk to be ALARP, it has to demonstrate that the cost involved in reducing the risk further would be grossly unequal to the benefit gained. ALARP involves the application of time, effort and money in reducing a risk to zero. ALARP is not a prescriptive form of safety it empowers organisation/employers to write their own rules and implement it. ALARP implies that employers should predict risk and put into practice all the preventive measures to check-mate the risk. To ensure that risk is reduced in an organisation, ALARP means that we have to raise standards continuously, adopted a high standard of risk control and there will be no accidents and ill health.

ALARP originated from UK legislation (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974) which requires "provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are so far reasonable practicable, safe and without risks to health.As there is no absolute safety in any industrial activity, ALARP ensures needed standards for reducing risks are adopted and reviewed whenever there is change in operation. ALARP is a friend to personnel safety, health and the environment; it tends to protect personnel from occupational accidents by reducing the risk involved in the operation to as low as reasonable practicable.It is a friendly tool to stakeholders in deciding whether to invest in a new business or not; stakeholders tend to back out from project with high risk involved and invest in a business with its risk as low as reasonable practicable.

Health and Safety Executive (1974), ‘ALARP at a glance' [online]. Available at

Tilak Suresh Kumar's picture

Due to the subjective of risk, no external agency, whether it is a
regulatory body or a professional society, can provide an objective value for
ALARP. This is a difficulty with the concept of ALARP, as the term is
inherently circular and self-referential. Fox example, when the quantified values
for ALARP are not available, the level of acceptability is established by
various criteria which can be defined as “the best technology available to
reduce the risk to an acceptable level – in other words to ALARP level.
Similarly “best operation” and “high standards” are equally ambiguous.  It may be for these reasons that the UK HSE in
the year 2006 decided to minimize its emphasis on ALARP requirements from the
safety case regime for offshore facilities. Some companies have also elected to
move away from ALARP towards a continuous risk reduction models.

Ref: Offshore Safety Management by Ian Sutton

Yaw Akyampon Boakye-Ansah's picture


risks are immutable, others are not. Some risks can be more easily eliminated
than others. According to UK regulations, it is not imperative to eliminate
risk. The concept of ALARP is thus introduced.

It is rather expected that a
job owner will practically reduce the impact and probability of a risk and/or
hazard. It is expected that attempts will be made to reduce the possibility of
a risk to the barest minimum. The concept of ALARP is defined as "as low
as reasonably practical". Safety practices are in tandem with this
approach. A barrier or safety guard on a machine reduces the impact of failure.
Machines are bound to fail at one time or the other in their working life. The
bath-tub curve is a concept that captures the realistic failure of man-made

Although there is a possibility
of extending failure periods, it is necessary to also forestall unfortunate
unexpected events. ALARP can lead to failure on the part of job owners to
provide the best possible protection. As explained by law, (Legislation
Lecture), a small company undertaking the same venture as a global company with
significantly higher annual turnover may not be able to provide the sort of
safety and ALARP standards as those provided by the latter.

Although some may argue that
some risks can be completely mitigated, they may be too expensive and thus
plunge the operating company into debt. Under such circumstances, although it
will be reasonable to expect the owner of the business to reduce the risk or
eliminate the risk completely, it will not be economically beneficial as
this is also the main aim of setting up a business.

 In conclusion then, ALARP
is provided in the law to protect both the employer and the employee with
economic benefit considered for the former and the level of discipline and
vigilance also for the latter.


Yaw A. Boakye-Ansah

MSc Oil and Gas Engineering


Mehran Vakil's picture

ALARP is a kind of risk assessment method. Using this method, the risks are taken into consideration from difficulty, timing and also price aspects. Hence, after making decision the risk might be reduced, provided that the mitigation activity makes sense, whether from timing or from money point of view (risk assessment, 2012).
Personally speaking, the two main prominent factors for big companies and organizations are investment and reputation. However, if they are faced to a kind of risk which is highly considerable but it might be happened seldom, they do not cope with this type of risk. Obviously, it is not reasonable for them to put lots of money and time for mitigating these risks which are happened rarely. For instance, the life time of a worker is important, but if he is exposure to a situation that may cause hazards for him/her once in a blue moon, it wouldn’t be economical for an organization for decreasing in the probability of a hazard. It will not ruin its reputation and history due to its number. It also will not waste money in order to controlling a rare event.

ASSESSMENT, R. 2012. ALARP [Online]. Available: [Accessed 8/12 2012].

ALARP” as low as reasonably possible. 

ALARP brings a logical method to health & safety
management. ALARP is a concept at the core of good health & safety practice
and health & safety management. ALARP is actually a legal requirement
stated in the Health & Safety Act. The employer must show that have taken
steps to ensure that have look at considered methods to reduce risk. ALARP makes
good business sense as it used cost benefit analysis and gives value to the
Health & Safety process as risk can be judged against cost. Value can be
applied to risk management and money can be spent on areas of safety that will
improve safety performance.  A negative
to ALARP is that a company could use the excuse to spend money on safety
measures and spend the minimum required and not improve safety performance.

James Parry
MSc Subsea Engineering

Mark Haley's picture

How do you know when you have done enough?? The HSE give some good advice on their website as to what they class ‘as low as reasonably practical' and also talk about SFIARP. However, as far as the HSE is concerned the terms ALARP and SFIARP are interchangeable, and it is only when drafting legal documents that you need to be specific on the term you use.

We know that the use of ALARP is a good concept in that it allows the HSE to set goals rather than rafts of prescriptive legislation. However, on the negative side, the use of goals rather than specific laws means that the HSE has to use judgement to decide when enough is enough and that can be subjective!
So how does the HSE judge when enough is enough?
Cost Benefit Analysis is one method and is a particularly useful approach in analysing ALARP when you have a new design of you are doing something that has not been done before and for comparing sacrifice vs risk.
However, the in the majority of cases the HSE decides ALARP on best practice. Health & Safety is a continually improving process and within any industry there are industry leaders which demonstrate the best practice. It is the practices of these companies that the HSE use as the benchmark to decide what is best.
Does that mean that the companies that have the highest standards set the benchmark for everyone else?
This is a trap that some companies fall into. Best practice does not mean the most expensive or the highest health and safety practice. Some businesses set their standards higher than best practice for publicity reasons or because they feel more socially responsible. The goal of achieving best practice is not the most expensive way of achieving health and safety it is the smartest way.
More often than not the best measures for reducing risk are through education and changing simple human practices. These measures are generally extremely cheap and tend to be the most effective.

Like perhaps, not using a unicycle to move around in a meat factory full of sharp hooks might be one measure!

Mark Haley

Manuel Maldonado's picture

Reducing risk as low as reasonable practicably can become an issue to safety and integrity of installations in the oil industry when the human factor unconsciously used perceptions rather than good understanding and analysis. Although some of the risky operations can be performed under good risks assessments and controls in place, there always be a room for a failure or an accident or incident when ALARP philosophy is not exercise properly.

ALARP can be used aimed at performing activities which allow continuous production but always being dominated by ensuring no body is going to be hurt or the integrity of facilities is not going to be threatened.

ALARP is not the permission for taking short cuts to safety nor an excuse for perfoming activities where safety cannot be guaranteed. Therefore, very effective risk assessments must be developed as team work execises to ensure different perceptions are taking into account and all risks are covered and managed with good controls.

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