ALARP stands for “As Low As Reasonably Practicable” and is often used within Risk and Safety Management circles. But what exactly is it…?

Background

The ALARP principle recognises that no industrial activity can be entirely free from risk. 

The concept of ALARP is now generally adopted as good practice by progressive companies, within a number of potentially high risk industries, across much of the world.

In fact, the ALARP process is seen as an integral part of the organisation’s HSE Risk Management and decision-making process.

Conceptual Aspects

The ALARP concept is based on achieving a balance between the costs, difficulty, trouble and time of risk reduction measures and the perceived actual benefits.

ALARP requires the identification of potential risk reduction measures and a determination of whether it is ‘reasonably practicable’ to apply them.

A systematic process of analysis is required to demonstrate ALARP.  The need to perform some type of ALARP analysis is determined from the assessment of risk.

Residual and potential risk is assessed, using quantitative or qualitative methods and criteria, to be in one of three broad regions as shown in the figure opposite (or below).

Risks assessed to be in the High (Unacceptable) band are given immediate attention (including, if necessary, suspension of activities or abandoning the associated design or development option) to minimise risk exposure such that the risk is reduced to the “Tolerable” band.

Operation in the Intolerable region for a short duration may be considered only if there are no alternatives and approval is provided.

Risks assessed to be in the Medium (Tolerable) band are analysed and reduced to levels that are demonstrably ALARP by the consideration of all possible risk reduction measures. However, where Residual Risks are determined to be Medium, further ALARP analysis will be required to meet risk acceptability requirements.

Risks assessed to be in the Low (Broadly Acceptable) band do not require detailed working to demonstrate ALARP.

The effort to analyse and reduce the risk further generally forms parts of a continuous improvement program. 

The closer the risk is to the Intolerable zone the more detailed the ALARP analysis.

Conclusion

  • ALARP (As Low As Reasonably Practicable) demonstration is a continuous process in ensuring risks are managed effectively.
  • It is important that risks reported within the ALARP region of any risk tolerability framework should only be considered as acceptable or tolerable once it has been demonstrated that all reasonably practicable risk reduction measures have been implemented.
  • The ALARP principle promotes safety improvements, it introduces scoping and execution uncertainties with potential impacts on both cost and production especially in the operations phase. 
  • Often there are arguments on ways to demonstrate ALARP (i.e. qualitative vs quantitative) and putting too much focus on QRA (Quantitative Risk Assessments) and CBA (Cost Benefit Analysis) could lead to “Reverse ALARP”.
  • The successful application of ALARP principles is closely linked to fundamental factors of perception, leadership, ownership and communication.

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