Defining reasonably practicable

The standard of 'reasonably practicable' has been generally accepted for many decades as an appropriate qualifier of the duties of care in most Australian jurisdictions. This qualifier is well known and has been consistently defined and interpreted by the courts.

'Reasonably practicable' represents what can reasonably be done in the circumstances. To determine what is (or was at a particular time) reasonably practicable in relation to managing risk, a person must take into account and weigh up all relevant matters, including:

  • the likelihood of the relevant hazard or risk occurring
  • the degree of harm that might result
  • what the person knows or ought reasonably to know about the hazard or risk and the ways of eliminating or minimising the risk
  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk.

After taking into account these matters, only then can the person consider the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.