Machinery Safety 101

Software System Safety Handbook, 1999


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Own­er: Doug Nix

Ver­sion: 1.0

Last Updated: 2018-09-04 9:16


Since the devel­op­ment of the digit­al com­puter, soft­ware con­tin­ues to play an import­ant and evol­u­tion­ary role in the oper­a­tion and con­trol of haz­ard­ous, safety-crit­ic­al func­tions. The reluct­ance of the engin­eer­ing com­munity to relin­quish human con­trol of haz­ard­ous oper­a­tions has dimin­ished dra­mat­ic­ally in the last 15 years. Today, digit­al com­puter sys­tems have autonom­ous con­trol over safety-crit­ic­al func­tions in nearly every major tech­no­logy, both com­mer­cially and with­in gov­ern­ment sys­tems. This revolu­tion is primar­ily due to the abil­ity of soft­ware to reli­ably per­form crit­ic­al con­trol tasks at speeds unmatched by its human coun­ter­part. Oth­er factors influ­en­cing this trans­ition is our ever-grow­ing need and desire for increased ver­sat­il­ity, great­er per­form­ance cap­ab­il­ity, high­er effi­ciency, and a decreased life cycle cost. In most instances, the soft­ware can meet all of the above attrib­utes of the system’s per­form­ance when prop­erly designed. The logic of the soft­ware allows for decisions to be imple­men­ted without emo­tion, and with speed and accur­acy. This has forced the human oper­at­or out of the con­trol loop; because they can no longer keep pace with the speed, cost-effect­ive­­ness, and decision-mak­ing pro­cess of the sys­tem. There­fore, there is a crit­ic­al need to per­form sys­tem safety engin­eer­ing tasks on safety-crit­ic­al sys­tems to reduce the safety risk in all aspects of a pro­gram. These tasks include the soft­ware sys­tem safety (SSS) activ­it­ies involving the design, code, test, Inde­pend­ent Veri­fic­a­tion and Val­id­a­tion (IV&V), oper­a­tion & main­ten­ance, and change con­trol func­tions of the soft­ware engin­eer­ing devel­op­ment pro­cess.

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