Reasonable practicability in the age of Coronavirus

Reasonable practicability in the age of Coronavirus
Photo by Michael Marais on Unsplash

This article considers the impact that the Coronavirus pandemic is having on the concept of ‘reasonable practicability’ in relation to compliance with health and safety legislation.  In particular, it addresses tolerable risk, use of guidance, face coverings, risk assessments and what employers should do to demonstrate that they are doing all that is ‘reasonably practicable’.



This article was published in the September 2020 edition of the British Safety Council’s Safety Matters journal.  My co-author was Simon Antrobus QC, a leading criminal regulatory and health and safety law barrister.

The article is structured as a conversation where we discuss the following questions in relation to reasonable practicability from both the legal and risk perspectives:

  • What is it that defines this time in terms of our approach towards health and safety?
  • Where does a ‘tolerable’ level of risk leave safety concepts that we have traditionally used, such as reducing risk ‘as low as reasonably practicable’?
  • How should employers address their safety obligations given the amount of guidance from different sources; is there a priority order or are they free to approach it how they see fit?
  • In practical terms how should organisations identify the risks they need to manage?
  • If an employer is seeking to do all that is reasonably practicable to protect the safety of its staff and customers, should it make face coverings mandatory in workplaces?
  • Are we to expect a hard-line approach from HSE and local authorities if there is evidence that employers did not do all that was ‘reasonably practicable’ to manage the risk of infection?

The online version can be viewed here.

A virtual magazine version can be viewed here – our article is on Pages 26-29.

A pdf version can be downloaded here.

If you have any comments, please drop me a line.

About the author:

Dr Mike Webster is a chartered civil and structural engineer (FICE, FIStructE) with over 30 years’ experience.  He specialises in construction and structural safety, CDM and risk, and founded MPW R&R to provide Consulting, Forensic and Expert Witness services in those areas.

He has led safety-related risk and regulatory projects in the UK, Europe, Far East and US in construction and other high risk industries.  He has published a range of papers and articles on health and safety, risk and regulatory issues.  He acted as an expert witness in the UK.

If you would like to discuss this further, drop Mike a line at


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