2014 – Beyond Quantitative ALARP – Re-Focussing Paradigms for Dam Safety Risk Management in a Changed Legal Environment

Dennis C. Green

Current good practice for risk management as represented in ANCOLD guidelines emphasises risk reduction beyond tolerable risk levels to As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP). Risk reduction reflected in key design parameters such as the spillway design flood is monitored on a quantitative basis, while the guidelines also draw attention to a number of non-quantifiable measures.

Recent work health and safety legislation in Australia does not at first appear to relate to dam safety, but it mandates elimination of risk, and, if that is not possible, then it mandates reduction of risk So Far As Is Reasonably Practicable (SFAIRP). It is tempting to believe that this is equivalent to ANCOLD’s approach to ALARP, but the devil is in the detail of the legislation. This paper argues for a change to a more systematic presentation of recording of decisions on dam safety risk management, lest the legislation expose dam owners unwittingly to liability when they thought they were following good practice. In particular, the re-focussing of ANCOLD Guidelines to align more recognisably with the new legal paradigm, including preparation and adoption of a Safety Case, is recommended.


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