Based on Risktec Solutions’ experience in a number of different high hazard industries and countries worldwide, we have put together a brief introduction to safety cases and highlight some best practices.
What is a safety case?
A safety case is a formal statement of how an operator intends to manage its facilities and operations
safely. It is used to demonstrate to numerous stakeholders (e.g. management, employees, investors,
contractors, the regulator and/or the public), that major safety risks arising from a particular facility or operation are known and have been assessed to be both tolerable and reduced to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP). ALARP is the point at which the time, effort and cost of implementing further risk reduction measures is objectively assessed as being grossly disproportionate to the risk reduction. It is a balance that is unique to every facility and operation. And no two safety cases are alike!
History of safety cases
Safety cases arose in the nuclear industry in the 1970s to provide a thorough, documented review of a facility’s operations. They have spread to many other industries, such as oil & gas, chemical, aviation and transportation. This has usually been a response to major accidents (e.g. Piper Alpha in the offshore oil & gas sector and Seveso for onshore chemical facilities), but also driven from proactive desire to provide better and more transparent risk assurance processes. Safety case regimes have been implemented in a number of countries, including the UK, the Netherlands, Malaysia and Australia.
Myths and realities
There are many misconceptions about safety cases. Some have arisen from past difficulties but, with decades of practice, industry itself has created the best practice realities of today. Below we debunk three common myths by showcasing the reality of a good safety case.
Myth #1 – A safety case has to be a huge and expensive tome
Reality #1 – A safety case is a succinct, value for money report
Quantity does not signify quality! A good safety case should be a concise, fit-for-purpose report with a clear audit trail to supporting information. It should be easy to understand and proportionate to the level of risk, utilising existing studies and selecting the appropriate tools and techniques carefully. Focus should be on real safety rather than paper safety.
Myth #2 – The safety case is for the regulator, written by a consultant
Reality #2 – The safety case is developed by the operator for the operator
Whilst a safety case may be demanded by a regulator, it should be produced, owned and used by
the operator. It is the working document to improve safety. The process should involve the workforce as much as possible as they have the most knowledge and experience of equipment and procedures. This
allows personnel to appreciate their role in managing risks. Consultants can provide independent facilitation, specialist technical studies or transfer best practices between operators, but they should not own the process.
Myth #3 – The safety case is a tickin-the-box, one-off event which can be consigned to the shelf
Reality #3 – The safety case is a living document, ensuring the process of continuous improvement
The safety case is about the process of ensuring continuous improvement in safety performance. A major benefit of the safety case comes from the process of preparing it, rather than the document itself.
Once completed, it should be a living document, readily accessible to the workforce and kept up to date
with any changes that may impact the risk profile (e.g. in technology, knowledge, the organization or
What are the attributes of a good safety case?
A well-written safety case is an asset and provides a natural focal point for key safety, design and operations information relating to the facility. Figure 1 presents some of the key attributes of a good safety case. Done well, the benefits of the process are such that some organizations choose to implement safety cases as a best practice even when there is no legislative requirement.
Risktec's Safety Case Support
There are plenty of areas where help can be offered to companies starting the safety case process for the first time. Risktec’s services to clients have ranged from co-ordination and planning of the process, through to preparation and technical support for all aspects of the case and even roll-out, communication and training.The focus is to provide a pragmatic solution to help clients get the most out of the safety case process, ensuring that it is carried out in a cost effective and timely manner, adds value and that the safety case continues to be a useable document.
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