Criteria for "Reasonably Practicable" - Levels of Sound - 927-1-IPG-054

Effective Date: December 20, 2002

1. Subject

The "reasonably practicable" statement in sections 7.5 and 7.6 of part VII of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (Levels of Sound).

2. Issue

The employer is permitted under the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations to provide employees with hearing protection in addition to or in lieu of applying the preferred method of engineering controls or other physical means to reduce the sound level for such time as such controls or means are not "reasonably practicable".

3. Question

What shall the Health and Safety Officer consider to assess whether measures to be taken are, or are not "reasonably practicable"?

4. Conclusion

Before deciding on whether or not it is "reasonably practicable" to apply engineering controls to equipment, several considerations should be made. These include both technical and financial aspects of the potential changes.

Considerations shall include:

  1. The technical aspect of the modification: Is it possible to alter the equipment and will such alterations nullify any required CSA, ULC or similar agency approval?
  2. The impact of the modification: Will the alteration lower the sound enough to make a noticeable improvement?
  3. The economical aspect for the amount of sound eliminated: Would the cost be justified (i.e., large expenditure for a small reduction in noise)?
  4. The age of the equipment: How long will it be in service after the modification (is it justified)?
  5. The controls already in place: Has an effort which has been undertaken resulted in the best improvement that can be reasonably expected?
  6. The likelihood that hearing protection will be effective: Is there a history of problems with employees not wearing protective equipment at that site or other circumstances that would render such measures ineffective?

In making a decision, the Health and Safety Officer shall:

  1. be flexible and use his discretionary power - each situation is unique and there are few set rules which can be applied to each and every one;
  2. determine if there are any precedent measures taken by similar companies in similar situations;
  3. determine if there are any precedent decisions taken by other federal or provincial safety officers in similar situations;
  4. ask the employer to provide additional information to support his conclusion that a certain requirement is not "reasonably practicable", if the decision is not obvious;
  5. consider the degree of technical sophistication used by the employer in concluding that such controls are not "reasonably practicable";
  6. consult with expert technical advice through Human Resources Development Canada - Labour Program, dependant upon the complexities of the issue.

Health and Safety Officers are reminded that the employer is required to submit a report in writing to the Regional Health and Safety Officer setting out the reasons why it is not reasonably practicable, and to provide a copy of that report to the health and safety committee or representative for the work place.

In summary, "reasonably practicable" imposes a less stringent standard than "practicable". There are measures which are "practicable", but not "reasonably practicable", to take to protect the health and safety of employees. The employer must weigh the effort, time, and cost of eliminating the hazards and the probability of injury and illnesses. Since the employer's first duty under the Regulations is to comply with the initial requirement of the Regulations, the effort, time and cost must significantly outweigh the benefit of the initial requirement.

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