Safety engineering

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Safety engineering is an applied science strongly related to systems engineering and the subset System Safety Engineering. Safety engineering assures that a life-critical system behaves as needed even when pieces fail.

Contents

Overview

Ideally, safety-engineers take an early design of a system, analyze it to find what faults can occur, and then propose safety requirements in design specifications up front and changes to existing systems to make the system safer. In an early design stage, often a fail-safe system can be made acceptably safe with a few sensors and some software to read them. Probabilistic fault-tolerant systems can often be made by using more, but smaller and less-expensive pieces of equipment.

Far too often, rather than actually influencing the design, safety engineers are assigned to prove that an existing, completed design is safe. If a safety engineer then discovers significant safety problems late in the design process, correcting them can be very expensive. This type of error has the potential to waste large sums of money.

The exception to this conventional approach is the way some large government agencies approach safety engineering from a more proactive and proven process perspective, known as "system safety". The system safety philosophy is to be applied to complex and critical systems, such as commercial airliners, complex weapon systems, spacecraft, rail and transportation systems, air traffic control system and other complex and safety-critical industrial systems. The proven system safety methods and techniques are to prevent, eliminate and control hazards and risks through designed influences by a collaboration of key engineering disciplines and product teams. Software safety is a fast growing field since modern systems functionality are increasingly being put under control of software. The whole concept of system safety and software safety, as a subset of systems engineering, is to influence safety-critical systems designs by conducting several types of hazard analyses to identify risks and to specify design safety features and procedures to strategically mitigate risk to acceptable levels before the system is certified.

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