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February 23, 2010

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Designers enlightened on SFARP

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has formulated in-depth

commentary on the legal requirement to exercise a duty ‘so far as is

reasonably practicable’ (SFARP) in an attempt to clarify the issue for

designers in the building industry.

The review summarises the principle of SFARP specifically from a designer’s perspective, and highlights aspects relating to the design environment where uncertainty as to its interpretation exist.   

Under the HSWA 1974, those in control of a premises or work activity are obliged by law to reduce risk SFARP, which introduces proportionality into the duty on an employer to safeguard his or her workers.

According to the review, a generally-understood interpretation of SFARP is that “efforts should continue to be made to eliminate hazards, or reduce risks, until the effort (i.e. the implementation of safety measures) expended is grossly disproportionate to the risk, or benefit gained”.

The ICE acknowledges, however, that this definition still leaves a question mark over what the courts and a jury would consider to be “grossly disproportionate”, and where the boundaries lie in terms of required efforts on the part of the employer.

Concerned that any uncertainty does not cause designers to become risk-averse or ignore risk altogether, the ICE hopes that its review will generate discussion between the construction industry and the HSE about how the SFARP principle should be interpreted, and bring more clarity to its practical application.

John Carpenter, convener of the drafting panel and member of the ICE health and safety panel, said: “This is an appropriate time to bring some clarity to a difficult area of legal requirement. Such clarity will not only create greater certainty but will also improve the business process. The ICE looks forward to discussion and debate on this topic.”

The review is available at: http://www.ice.org.uk/knowledge/specialist_community_health_downloads.asp

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