RE: [sc] Safety engineer deliberations

RE: [sc] Safety engineer deliberations

From: Palin, Robert (R.A.) <rpalin_at_xxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 10 Nov 2009 08:00:58 -0000
Message-ID: <BF339AE5239C274F99E9E7F67BA44B63033D70D1@xxxxxx>
Nancy, I second that...

Just because a product can be manufactured, can be assembled, can be reliable, can be safe, it is not the same as being designed FOR manufacture, assembly, reliability, safety.

Surely this is why their are so many additional engineering categories. Just to check that the design engineer is functioning to an acceptable level. I think the best generic term for this would be fool proofing. 

My question would be, do we waste valuable resources and give the design engineer steroids in the hope that they may improve, or simply remove this 'failure mode'(in a former life I was a robustness engineer) and design by democracy? 

Kind regards 
Rob Palin 

-----Original Message-----
From: safety-critical-request@xxxxxx [mailto:safety-critical-request@xxxxxx] On Behalf Of Nancy Leveson
Sent: 08 November 2009 15:46
To: safety-critical@xxxxxx
Subject: Re: [sc] Safety engineer deliberations 

 > Are safety engineers people who were not good enough for traditional  > design/technical engineering?

There is no way to answer such a sweeping question. Are programmers people who were not good enough to be "real" engineers?

Every industry and even companies are different in their cultures. At Boeing, the DER's (the equivalent of the safety engineer) are the highest status engineers -- they are selected from the cream of the crop, paid more, and given high status.

As another example, in one large engineering company I am very familiar with, there is a waiting list of the most experienced engineers to get into safety. I was told that the older engineers get tired of the long hours and stress associated with project deadlines and find the more regular hours of safety engineering more appealing.

At some NASA centers, the safety group is very stigmatized. I've talked to NASA engineers who tell me that they would like to go into software safety, but their careers will be ended if they go into the safety organization because of the low status and the perception that it is the place where the least qualified engineers are assigned.  One of the center directors tried to combat this at his center by getting his most respected and senior engineer to take over safety and that man then convinced other top design engineers to change to the safety group.

When safety is relegated to Mission Assurance or Quality Assurance (as it is at NASA), it will inherit the low status of these engineering groups. When safety engineering is part of system engineering and works closely with the system engineers to design safety into a system (rather than just write after-the-fact "safety cases"), then the status is high and high quality engineers want to participate.

The good news is that this cultural factor is one of the easiest to fix if the leadership wants to do so. But it requires making safety engineering part of the design team (which is more effective anyway) rather than just after-the-fact quality assurance or those who spend their lives simply justifying in a "safety case" what the "design engineers" have done. Safety, if done right, is "design engineering" 
but that does not seem to be the focus on this mailing list. I'm not sure whether those who practice system safety engineering as a design/technical engineering discipline have left this mailing list or if they are just quiet. But I find it puzzling.


      Are safety engineers people who were not good enough for traditional desi
      /technical engineering?
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Received on Tue 10 Nov 2009 - 08:01:09 GMT