One of the more interesting philosophical issues to emerge in the early 21st century is the relationship, as determined by our courts, between the precautionary principle as implemented in environmental legislation, and the precautionary approach as articulated in the harmonised Work Health and Safety (WHS) legislation.

It is interesting because the intellectual source of these ideas appears entirely different, yet the judicial operationalisation of both approaches appears to align. The environmental precautionary principle is generally recognised as coming from Germany’s democratic socialist movement in the 1930s and gained acceptance through the German Green movement in the…