Duty of Care

A large number of countries have some version of a duty of care, where an organisation has a legal obligation to ensure the safety of any employee or member of the public who might be harmed by the activity or inactivity of that organisation.

A duty of care is sometimes overlooked during procurement of a safety-critical system, resulting in unclear roles and responsibilities. Such mistakes can propagate and affect the quality, timeliness and completeness of analysis and development of a safety-critical system, with possible disastrous results when in operation.

An example of some legislation related to the duty of care is the The Queensland Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995, which places requirements upon designers or importers of particular types of equipment. It includes the phrase "without risk", an example of absolute safety which may be impossible to achieve. However, it also states that this can be achieved through hazard identification, risk assessment, risk reduction, and monitoring.

The use of targets relating to an acceptable level of safety to meet an absolute level of safety is not universally accepted (although they are common in a number of safety standards), with opinions differing particularly on the legal status of such approaches.

Many companies recognise their duty of care in their corporate policies, some of which make a goal of absolute safety.


The 229th law of Hammurabi (circa 1780BC) (as translated by L. W. King) states: "If a builder build a house for some one, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to death."