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Reasonably Practicable and Practicable


Following the case of Edwards v National Coal Board [1949], the term reasonably practicable means that...

  • The duty holder must assess the risk and the consequences (significance) of it materialising;
  • The assessment must be done at a point in time when the risk had no opportunity to materialise;
  • Before installing any measures to avoid the risk, the duty holder may take account of the money, time and trouble that those measures would incur;
  • The greater the risk, the less weight may be given to cost etc;
  • If it is found that there is a gross disproportion between the significance of the risk and the cost etc of avoiding it, the duty holder is at liberty to do nothing;
  • The questions the duty holder must ask are 'what measures are necessary and sufficient to prevent a breach' and 'are these measures reasonably practicable?'.

As a result of Edwards and an HSE (1990) guide to the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, we arrive at the scales below.







Whilst a practicable duty must be complied with regardless of cost etc, it is not an absolute duty. For something to be practicable to do, it must be possible in the light of current knowledge and invention (Adsett).