What is Reasonably Practicable?

Is reasonably practicable practical?

Okay, so this seems like a hand on heart definition – meaning….your honour……(hand on heart) I have done everything reasonably practicable that someone in my position would be expected to do.

Under the current NSW Act, you can use reasonably practicable as a defence for not complying or something being out of your control and it was impracticable to make provisions in that instance.  Currently you need to demonstrate that it was not reasonably practicable, whereas these new laws you don’t need to demonstrate this – you are innocent until proven guilty.

To align reasonably practicable with the other states one thing that is new in NSW is that the PCBU will be qualified by reasonably practicable.  What on earth does that mean?  Well reasonably practicable is currently only brought up usually in a court room, it is now used in more of a positive light to ensure that PCBUs protect people at work by looking at all their risks and reducing or eliminating them so far as reasonably practicable.  If they breach this reasonably practicable duty, the prosecutor must prove the case.  I wonder if they will bring out a CSI type show on safety related incidents where the prosecutors investigate a case to find organisations guilty for not doing everything reasonably practicable?  I wonder if it would make for good viewing?  I know I’d watch it.

Where were we……okay…..specifically the WHS Act defines reasonably practicable as the duty to ensure adequate health and safety which is or was at a particular time reasonably able to be done in relation to ensuring adequate health and safety.

You need to take into account the:

  • Likelihood of occurrence
  • Degree of harm
  • What the person concerned knows, or ought to reasonably know about the hazard or risk and ways to eliminate or reduce the risk
  • Ways to eliminate or reduce the risk are actually available, suitable and the cost is proportionate to the risk.

It’s not rocket science, in a nut shell you must do what can reasonably done in the circumstances based on what a reasonable person in that position would be expected to know and do.  The greater the risk, the greater the effort to reduce or eliminate it.  I think the hard part will come when cases go through the courts as to their take on this reasonably practicable test and different interpretations – now that would make good television!

The Safety Nerd x

Safety Nerd

Owner and Principal Consultant at Riskology
I’ve been in safety my whole career. Well nearly my whole career, I started off as a secretary for a recruitment company, then dabbled in HR whilst stumbling onto safety, which I fell head over heels ….literally in love (I know safety nerd alert) with safety after reading the book Lessons from Longford by Anthony Hopkins at the age of 19 and haven’t looked back since. I had a few friends that had been permanently injured in their early 20s and my Dad nearly lost his foot in a workplace accident when I was a twinkle in his eye and the Lessons from Longford book made so much sense to me. I started my life in safety knee high to a grasshopper working for Aristocrat in the 90’s, a gaming machine company in Sydney where I introduced national safety handbooks, alerts, industry focus groups and decided this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life; during this time I also headed off to Uni and completed an MBA specialising in industrial relations, the closest qualification at the time related to safety, since then there’s been an explosion of courses so I then got my teeth into a masters of safety. I then went onto a safety role at Coca Cola Amatil and tackled the logistics of ensuring multiple sites were compliant from call centres to sales to manufacturing workers. This was an interesting time when new manufacturing plants were opening and becoming fully automated, never a dull moment in the world of safety. I’m a bit of a car buff so then moved into a safety role at Inchcape, you know the guys that own Subaru. I was looking after the safety for 45 sites and came up with some great strategies to get them all confident and running with safety. After saving my employers in total over $1.5million in workers comp and setting up some great strategies I decided to jump ship and moved away from the big smoke for love. That was a couple of years ago now and that’s when Riskology was born. I love helping other businesses create safer workplaces helping them through the minefield of legislation with simple easy solutions with the end goal of making workplaces safer. The safety industry has changed significantly in recent years, with new legislation and tougher penalties. Small businesses are expected to comply just as much as large businesses, that’s where I come in, helping to bridge the gap and cut through the jargon. Safety doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room, good safety practices is good for business. Qualifications Master’s degree in Occupational Health and Safety Master’s degree in Business Industrial Relations Accredited Lead Auditor Graduate Certificate Health and Safety Management Systems Cert IV – Workplace Training, OHS, HR(and Dip), Secretarial

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