Safety Case

Last updated: June 6, 2017

What Does Safety Case Mean?

A safety case is a written demonstration of evidence and due diligence provided by a corporation to demonstrate that it has the ability to operate a facility safely and can effectively control hazards. The primary use of safety cases in an occupational health and safety context is in the process industries. Organizations that operate facilities with major hazards that could cause catastrophic damage to health, safety, and the environment are commonly required to submit safety cases. This type of facility includes petroleum refineries, offshore installations, and nuclear facilities.

Safety cases are somewhat similar to risk assessments as both involve the evaluation of potential hazards; however, a safety case must also include a positive argument to justify the various choices that have been made to provide for the facility’s operational safety.

Safeopedia Explains Safety Case

The safety case format was developed in the United Kingdom to manage high-risk process industry facilities. A key consideration of the safety case system is the “ALARP” concept, which requires employers to reduce the risk of hazards to As Low As Reasonably Practicable. “Reasonably practicable” roughly means ‘reasonably possible without undue disproportionate economic cost for minimal benefit to safety.” The following relatively standardized format for safety cases is used around the world: Introduction, description (including safety systems), safety management, management of major hazards, and justification for operation.

The level of emphasis placed on various aspects of the safety case format differs across jurisdictions. For instance, Australian guidance for safety cases specifies that a safety case should not simply focus on promoting the safety benefits of design choices but should also discuss other safety options and justify why the chosen option is superior. Further, because the safety case system is premised on ensuring the safety of major hazard facilities, some jurisdictions (such as the United Kingdom) do not require a safety case to discuss ‘ordinary’ occupational hazards. However, the inclusion of occupational safety concerns is commonly considered best practice.

In response to the safety case system gaining wider recognition and use, the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) has developed a safety case template for offshore and onshore drilling units. These have become accepted as best practice standards or as regulatory requirements by a variety of jurisdictions, including Australia, Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada. The United States does not use the safety case system for the certification of process industry facilities.


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