What does ‘Reasonably Practical’ mean?

We are all familiar with the term “so far as reasonably practicable” but what does it actually mean?

Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states. “It shall be the duty of all employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health safety and welfare of all their employees whilst they are at work”.

Edwards vs National Coal Board (1949)

This is a famous case in law which first established the Cost v Risk analogy which, as employers, managers, supervisors and health & safety professionals we should be adhering to determine what is “reasonably practicable”

Mr Edwards was killed when an unsupported section of a road in a mine collapsed. The company argued that it was not feasible to shore up every road in every single mine, and only shored up those that “needed it”.

The judge stated. “Reasonably practicable’ is a narrower term than physically possible and implies that a computation must be made in which the quantum of risk is placed on one side of the scale and the sacrifice involved in carrying out the measures necessary for averting the risk is placed on the other side. If it can be shown that there is gross disproportion between the above factors, i.e the risk is insignificant in relation to the sacrifice, then a defendant discharges the onus on themselves”

Cost V Risk

Carrying out a Cost v Risk exercise allows employers to identify and put into place suitable protective measures to ensure the safety of his/her employees at all times.

It should not be seen as an exercise to identify what bear minimum measures you can get away with. At the end of the day our workers are our responsibility, it is not just a legal obligation we have to them, but a moral one too.

Taking pride in keeping our work force safe creates a more productive team and a better safety culture, which ultimately reduces the risk of accidents and lost time.

I suppose, with that said, it begs the question, are you doing enough to keep your work force safe?

Contact our team today and we’ll ensure that you’re doing everything you can for your workforce.