ALARP is NOT Zero Tolerance, The Key to Psychosocial Health

imageBeing sensitive to the language in risk and safety is so important when seeking to understand such things as ethical practice, legal compliance, Psychosocial Safety and risk assessment.

As much as safety would like to maintain the delusion of objectivity, there is no objectivity when it comes to risk assessment, legal compliance or ethical practice. Give 5 engineers a set of data in separate locations and they come up with 5 interpretations.

The Act, Regulation, Standards and Code of Practice make sure that the language of ALARP (As Low as Reasonably Practicable) dominates the safetyscape (culture). Silly memes like ‘all accidents are preventable’ and ‘safety is a choice you make’ are also at odds with the very basic meaning of ALARP.

Any language of zero tolerance and intolerance is at odds with the language of ALARP.

Risk assessment is not a scientific activity nor is it objective. This is because so many factors (many unconscious and hidden) come into the mix and all risk is tied to experience, felt knowing, emotion, purpose, context, linguistics and Socialitie.

The video by Greg Smith, Dr Craig Ashhurst and Dr Long on ALARP has been viewed and downloaded thousands of times ( Most feedback is all about what a breath of fresh air this is. ALARP exists for some very good reasons: Humans, systems and the world is fallible, people are mortal, imperfect, mistakes are normal, the world is messy, risk and culture are ‘wicked problems’, life is unpredictable and cannot be ‘future proofed’. Only Safety could think up such stupid language as ‘future proofing’. (try to sell such nonsense to an insurance company and see how far you get).

ALARP allows us to be ‘normal’ to each other (an essential to Psychosocial health), the ideology of zero is abnormal.

We have written about this before:




In order to help Psychosocial health in the workplace the following are needed: forgiveness, resilience, care, empathy, helping, trust, faith, imagination, hope, justice, tolerance, acceptance, confidentiality and professionalism. None of these are visible or measurable. Safety never speaks of these in association with Psychosocial Safety. Behavioural Safety and the quest for measurables can never help with Psychosocial Safety.

ALARP is the perfect framework to understand Psychosocial health. It is NOT absolute. It accepts tolerance. Zero is the symbol for brutalism.

Interestingly the Codes of Practice on Psychosocial Health use the notion of ALARP many times but never flesh out what ALARP actually means. The language listed above is rarely mentioned.

Safety is afraid to speak many of these words because it is fixated on what doesn’t count.

Only what can be counted counts in Safety.

So, Safety locks itself in to engineering/behaviourism (even under the branding of ‘difference’) and the pathetic focus on lower order goals (

Such a focus has no vision, which suits Safety fine because it is in love with zero vision ( ).

Zero is directly opposed to any chance of establishing Psychosocial health in the workplace.

Zero fosters intolerance, policing, counting, objectifying persons, numerics, metrics, hiding, language of elimination, perfection, game playing with data and a host of unethical behaviours. This causes everyone involved to be morally injured ( because zero is a fake concept. It denies fallibility ( and rejects reality. Fallibility is the word never spoken in Safety.

Yet, accepting fallibility is foundational to Psychosocial health. Any failure in judgement and decision making in the workplace is an opportunity for learning, resilience, leadership, wisdom and practicing tolerance. Zero opposes all of these.

The strange thing is this:

ALARP accepts the reality of fallibility, that zero is NOT possible.

ALARP is confirmation that all risk evaluation is subjective.

But none of this seems to matter to Safety, as the global industry maintains its apocalyptic drive for the impossible ( and a naïve hope for deliverance from fallibility.

It thus demonises the human body and rarely talks about ‘persons’. Indeed, there is no articulation of an ethic of personhood globally, even though such is essential for establishing Psychosocial health and an ethic of risk. This is why Safety loves to talk about ‘hazards’ ( in relation to Psychosocial health.

If you want to learn about ethics and how to practice Psychosocial health, the free Ethics module is available for registration right now. Simply contact:

5. ALARP from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.

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