Archives For risk acceptability

Taboo transactions and the safety dilemma Again my thanks goes to Ross Anderson over on the Light Blue Touchpaper blog for the reference, this time to a paper by Alan Fiske  an anthropologist and Philip Tetlock a social psychologist, on what they terms taboo transactions. What they point out is that there are domains of sharing in society which each work on different rules; communal, versus reciprocal obligations for example, or authority versus market. And within each domain we socially ‘transact’ trade-offs between equivalent social goods.

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A short and pragmatic guide on how to demonstrate what is practical and reasonable in complying with the ALARP safety goal

The principle of  As Low As Reasonably Practical (ALARP) is enshrined in the Health and Safety legislation of many western countries and embodies a hybrid rights and utility (cost/benefit) decision strategy used to determine when to stop reducing risk associated with the use of a system. (1),(2)

To quote the UK Defence safety standard DEF-STAN 00-56 ALARP is achieved when:

… it has been demonstrated that the cost of any further risk reduction, where the cost includes the loss of system capability as well as financial or other resource costs, is grossly disproportionate to the benefit obtained from that risk reduction. (DEF-STAN 00-56 Issue 3)
Unfortunately the terms reasonable and practical are unbounded qualifiers of the requirement, what is deemed to be either reasonable or practical is inherently subjective and subject to interpretation. This of course is not a good thing when it comes to writing a specification or forming a contract so from this perspective while ALARP may be a laudable societal goal but it is not a good commercial requirement. Further what do you do in practical terms when a naive customer requires you to ‘demonstrate’ the achievement of ALARP for all risks no matter how many of them, or how well they are understood?