Is it possible to become 100% compliant and what for?

As we spoke in this post, the oil and gas immediate savings motive has a potential for safety issues. And here we discuss the safety compliance options, and outline an umbrella against major incidents and their implications. We start from a brief of the Australian Health and Safety legislation. Please refer to your local health and safety (H&S) legislation as well.

toy with sun umbrella

Legislation overview

The Australian top level enforceable safety law is the Workplace Health and Safety Act (WHS Act, 2011), which is the legal framework for penalty decisions. It is supplemented by WHS Regulations (reference [1]). These Regulations describe general requirements to the H&S risk control. In addition, there is a range of State approved Codes of Practice (CoP) which provide practical guidelines on how to meet the WHS Act requirements. These codes are enforceable too (for example – reference [2]). Finally, there is a series of great explanatory Guidelines by Safe Work Australia. They detail the expectations and requirements of regulatory bodies in a language relevant to plant personnel. Generally, the WHS Act and its Regulations apply to Major Hazard (MH) facilities and any facilities containing hazardous media above certain volume thresholds. Specifically, the Act requires the scope facilities to have in place and operating Safety Management System (SMS, [3]). An SMS implies risk assessment and control processes at a level deeper than for non-MH facilities. In addition, the WHS Act also requires owners of specific MH facilities to prepare and maintain the facility safety case [4], which is as an ongoing safety demonstration document. In our context, the most relevant regulation [1] clauses are 558, 560, 561, 563, 570, 575. Looking at a typical safety case, we will likely find the risk owner’s compliance demonstration elements:

  • identifying hazards
  • qualifying them into risks
  • setting risk controls using the ALARP criterion

ALARP demonstration

As Low As Reasonably Practical (ALARP) stands for the situations where controlling risks to lower levels becomes economically non-practical. This means that the ALARP approach is highly sensitive to ongoing financial considerations. For Example, if we refer to the WHS Act Sections 17 and 18, we find the ALARP risk levels are very challenging to prove:

… ALARP is what is reasonably able to be done, weighting up all relevant factors including:

… (c) what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably know, about: (i) the hazard or the risk; and (ii) ways of eliminating or minimizing the risk; and:

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

As such, claiming an ALARP risk level demonstration, are you confident that:  ‘the cost of a better risk control was grossly disproportionate according to what you were reasonably ought to know’? Perhaps… No!
But is there any other way to demonstrate compliance, not using this subjective ALARP criterion?
Yes, a Quantitative Risk Assessment route (QRA) can also be applied, refer chapter 5.4 of the Guideline [5]. Then, the compliance elements become:

  1. Identify hazards
  2. Quantify them into risks
  3. Set safety exposure limits (numerically)
  4. Assign risk controls which achieve a safety exposure below the limit set
  5. Compliance demonstrated automatically. No more ALARP excuses necessary.

Consider ALARS and ALARE instead

Now, let me guess what you are thinking? QRA is easier to say than do!

But we have some good news for you!  Yes, we can now do it ‘on a budget’. We’ve developed an applied integrity management system CoRBI®, which quantifies risks in the above QRA sequence. We can now evaluate the risks numerically using the As Low As Reasonably Economical (ALARE) and As Low As Reasonably Safe (ALARS) criteria. Both criteria are numeric and remove the decisions’ subjectivism. three spanners of different sizes


Finally, time to answer the ‘What For?’ part of the question:

  • For low risk equipment (no or low safety consequence), risk controls choice and timing use the ALARE (financial) criterion. This justifies the risk controls decisions (for example, inspection timing, coverage and tools) in terms of dollars.
  • For high risk equipment, the ALARS (safety) criterion drives the risk control timing, so that the safety exposure in the future will never exceed our safety objective.

  • Way Forward

We see the above features as the ultimate and seamless compliance. It also offers an effective control to sudden failures’ financial and reputational implications via limiting failure risks down to compliant levels. To learn more about CoRBI® you can watch YouTube videos at our main page of simply flick us a message via the contact form. References: [1] Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, Queensland Government, 2011 [2] ‘Managing Risks of Plant in the Workplace’, Code of Practice, Safe Work Australia, March 2016 [3] ‘Guide for Major Hazard Facilities: Safety Management Systems’, Safe Work Australia, March 2012 [4] ‘Guide for Major Hazard Facilities. Safety Case: Demonstrating the Adequacy of Safety Management and Control Measures’, Safe Work Australia, March 2012 [5] ‘Guide for Major Hazard Facilities. Safety Assessment’, Safe Work Australia, March 2012