ISO 13849–1 Analysis — Part 5: Diagnostic Coverage (DC)

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series How to do a 13849–1 analy­sis

What is Diagnostic Coverage?

Under­stand­ing Diag­nos­tic Cov­er­age (DC) as it is used in ISO 13849–1 [1] is crit­i­cal to analysing the design of any safe­ty func­tion assessed using this stan­dard. In case you missed a pre­vi­ous part of the series, you can read it here.

In the last instal­ment of this series dis­cussing MTTFD, I brought up the fact that every­thing fails even­tu­al­ly, and so every­thing has a nat­ur­al fail­ure rate. The bath­tub curve shown at the top of this post shows a typ­i­cal fail­ure rate curve for most prod­ucts. Fail­ure rates tell you the aver­age time (or some­times the mean time) it takes for com­po­nents or sys­tems to fail. Fail­ure rates are expressed in many ways, MTTFD and PFHd being the ways rel­e­vant to this dis­cus­sion of ISO 13849 analy­sis. MTTFis giv­en in years, and PFHd is giv­en in frac­tion­al hours (1/h). As a reminder, PFHd stands for “Prob­a­bil­i­ty of dan­ger­ous Fail­ure per Hour”.

Three of the stan­dard archi­tec­tures include auto­mat­ic diag­nos­tic func­tions, Cat­e­gories 2, 3 and 4. As soon as we add diag­nos­tics to the sys­tem, we need to know what faults the diag­nos­tics can detect and how many of the dan­ger­ous fail­ures rel­a­tive to the total num­ber of fail­ures that rep­re­sents. Diag­nos­tic Cov­er­age (DC) rep­re­sents the ratio of dan­ger­ous fail­ures that can be detect­ed to the total dan­ger­ous fail­ures that could occur, expressed as a per­cent­age. There will be some fail­ures that do not result in a dan­ger­ous fail­ure, and those fail­ures are exclud­ed from DC because we don’t need to wor­ry about them — if they occur, the sys­tem will not fail into a dan­ger­ous state.

Here’s the for­mal def­i­n­i­tion from [1]:

3.1.26 diag­nos­tic cov­er­age (DC)

mea­sure of the effec­tive­ness of diag­nos­tics, which may be deter­mined as the ratio between the fail­ure rate of detect­ed dan­ger­ous fail­ures and the fail­ure rate of total dan­ger­ous fail­ures

Note 1 to entry: Diag­nos­tic cov­er­age can exist for the whole or parts of a safe­ty-relat­ed sys­tem. For exam­ple, diag­nos­tic cov­er­age could exist for sen­sors and/or log­ic sys­tem and/or final ele­ments. [SOURCE: IEC 61508–4:1998, 3.8.6, mod­i­fied.]

That brings up two oth­er relat­ed def­i­n­i­tions that need to be kept in mind [1]:

3.1.4 fail­ure

ter­mi­na­tion of the abil­i­ty of an item to per­form a required func­tion

Note 1 to entry: After a fail­ure, the item has a fault.

Note 2 to entry: “Fail­ure” is an event, as dis­tin­guished from “fault”, which is a state.

Note 3 to entry: The con­cept as defined does not apply to items con­sist­ing of soft­ware only.

Note 4 to entry: Fail­ures which only affect the avail­abil­i­ty of the process under con­trol are out­side of the scope of this part of ISO 13849. [SOURCE: IEC 60050–191:1990, 04–01.]

and the most impor­tant one [1]:

3.1.5 dan­ger­ous fail­ure

fail­ure which has the poten­tial to put the SRP/CS in a haz­ardous or fail-to-func­tion state

Note 1 to entry: Whether or not the poten­tial is real­ized can depend on the chan­nel archi­tec­ture of the sys­tem; in redun­dant sys­tems a dan­ger­ous hard­ware fail­ure is less like­ly to lead to the over­all dan­ger­ous or fail-to- func­tion state.

Note 2 to entry: [SOURCE: IEC 61508–4, 3.6.7, mod­i­fied.]

Just as a reminder, SRP/CS stands for “safe­ty-relat­ed parts of con­trol sys­tems”.

Failure Math

Failure Rate Data Sources

To do any cal­cu­la­tions, we need data, and this is true for fail­ure rates as well. ISO 13849–1 pro­vides some tables in the annex­es that list some com­mon types of com­po­nents and their asso­ci­at­ed fail­ure rates, and there are more fail­ure rate tables in ISO 13849–2. A word of cau­tion here: Do not mix sources of fail­ure rate data, as the con­di­tions under which that data is true won’t match the data in ISO 13849. There are a few good sources of fail­ure rate data out there, for exam­ple, MIL-HDBK-217, Reli­a­bil­i­ty Pre­dic­tion of Elec­tron­ic Equip­ment [15], as well as the data­base main­tained by Exi­da. In any case, use a sin­gle source for your fail­ure rate data.

Failure Rate Variables

IEC 61508 [7] defines a num­ber of vari­ables relat­ed to fail­ure rates. The low­er­case Greek let­ter lamb­da, \lambda, is used to denote fail­ures.

The com­mon vari­able des­ig­na­tions used are:

\lambda = fail­ures
\lambda_{(t)} = fail­ure rate
\lambda_s = “safe” fail­ures
\lambda_d = “dan­ger­ous” fail­ures
\lambda_{dd} = detectable “dan­ger­ous” fail­ures
\lambda_{du} = unde­tectable “dan­ger­ous” fail­ures

Calculating DC

Of these vari­ables, we only need to con­cern our­selves with \lambda_d, \lambda_{dd} and \lambda_{du}. To under­stand how these vari­ables are used, we can express their rela­tion­ship as


Fol­low­ing on that idea, the Diag­nos­tic Cov­er­age can be expressed as a per­cent­age like this:

DC\%=\frac{\lambda_{dd}}{\lambda_d}\times 100

Determining DC%

If you want to actu­al­ly cal­cu­late DC%, you have some work ahead of you. Rather than going into the details here, I am going to refer you hard­core types to IEC 61508–2, Func­tion­al safe­ty of electrical/electronic/programmable elec­tron­ic safe­ty-relat­ed sys­tems — Part 2: Require­ments for electrical/electronic/programmable elec­tron­ic safe­ty-relat­ed sys­tems. This stan­dard goes into some depth on how to deter­mine fail­ure rates and how to cal­cu­late the “Safe Fail­ure Frac­tion,” a num­ber which is relat­ed to DC but is not the same.

For every­one else, the good news is that you can use the table in Annex E to esti­mate the DC%. It’s worth not­ing here that Annex E is “Infor­ma­tive.” In stan­dards-speak, this means that the infor­ma­tion in the annex is not part of the “nor­ma­tive” text, which means that it is sim­ply infor­ma­tion to help you use the nor­ma­tive part of the stan­dard. The design must con­form to the require­ments in the nor­ma­tive text if you want to claim con­for­mi­ty to the stan­dard. The fact that [1, Annex E] is infor­ma­tive gives you the option to cal­cu­late the DC% val­ue rather than select­ing it from Table E.1. Using the cal­cu­lat­ed val­ue would not vio­late the require­ments in the nor­ma­tive text.

If you are using IFA SISTEMA [16] to do the cal­cu­la­tions for you, you will find that the soft­ware lim­its you to select­ing a sin­gle DC mea­sure from Table E.1, and this prin­ci­ple applies if you are doing the cal­cu­la­tions by hand too. Only one item from Table E.1 can be select­ed for a giv­en safe­ty func­tion.

Ranking DC

Once you have deter­mined the DC for a safe­ty func­tion, you need to com­pare the DC val­ue against [1, Table 5] to see if the DC is suf­fi­cient for the PLr you are try­ing to achieve. Table 5 bins the DC results into four ranges. Just like bin­ning the PFHd val­ues into five ranges helps to pre­vent pre­ci­sion bias in esti­mat­ing the prob­a­bil­i­ty of fail­ure of the com­plete sys­tem or safe­ty func­tion, the ranges in Table 5 helps to pre­vent pre­ci­sion bias in the cal­cu­lat­ed or select­ed DC val­ues.

ISO 13849-1, Table 5 Diagnostic coverage (DC)
ISO 13849–1, Table 5 Diag­nos­tic cov­er­age (DC)

If the DC val­ue was high enough for the PLr, then you are done with this part of the work. If not, you will need to go back to your design and add addi­tion­al diag­nos­tic fea­tures so that you can either select a high­er cov­er­age from [1, Table E.1] or cal­cu­late a high­er val­ue using [14].

Multiple safety functions

When you have mul­ti­ple safe­ty func­tions that make up a com­plete safe­ty sys­tem, for exam­ple, an emer­gency stop func­tion and a guard inter­lock­ing func­tion, the DC val­ues need to be aver­aged to deter­mine the over­all DC for the com­plete sys­tem. [1, Annex E] pro­vides you with a method to do this in Equa­tion E.1.

Equation for averaging the DC values of multiple safety functions
ISO 13849–1-2015 Equa­tion E.1

Plug in the val­ues for MTTFD and DC for each safe­ty func­tion, and cal­cu­late the result­ing DCavg val­ue for the com­plete sys­tem.

That’s it for this arti­cle. The next part will cov­er Com­mon Cause Fail­ures (CCF). Look for it on 20-Mar-17!

In case you missed the first part of the series, you can read it here.

Book List

Here are some books that I think you may find help­ful on this jour­ney:

[0]     B. Main, Risk Assess­ment: Basics and Bench­marks, 1st ed. Ann Arbor, MI USA: DSE, 2004.

[0.1]  D. Smith and K. Simp­son, Safe­ty crit­i­cal sys­tems hand­book, 3rd Ed. Ams­ter­dam: Else­vier/But­ter­worth-Heine­mann, 2011.

[0.2]  Elec­tro­mag­net­ic Com­pat­i­bil­i­ty for Func­tion­al Safe­ty, 1st ed. Steve­nage, UK: The Insti­tu­tion of Engi­neer­ing and Tech­nol­o­gy, 2008.

[0.3]  Overview of tech­niques and mea­sures relat­ed to EMC for Func­tion­al Safe­ty, 1st ed. Steve­nage, UK: Overview of tech­niques and mea­sures relat­ed to EMC for Func­tion­al Safe­ty, 2013.


Note: This ref­er­ence list starts in Part 1 of the series, so “miss­ing” ref­er­ences may show in oth­er parts of the series. Includ­ed in the last post of the series is the com­plete ref­er­ence list.

[1]     Safe­ty of machin­ery — Safe­ty-relat­ed parts of con­trol sys­tems — Part 1: Gen­er­al prin­ci­ples for design. 3rd Edi­tion. ISO Stan­dard 13849–1. 2015.

[7]     Func­tion­al safe­ty of electrical/electronic/programmable elec­tron­ic safe­ty-relat­ed sys­tems. 7 parts. IEC Stan­dard 61508. Edi­tion 2. 2010.

[14]   Func­tion­al safe­ty of electrical/electronic/programmable elec­tron­ic safe­ty-relat­ed sys­tems — Part 2: Require­ments for electrical/electronic/programmable elec­tron­ic safe­ty-relat­ed sys­tems. IEC Stan­dard 61508–2. 2010.

[15]     Reli­a­bil­i­ty Pre­dic­tion of Elec­tron­ic Equip­ment. Mil­i­tary Hand­book MIL-HDBK-217F. 1991.

[16]     “IFA — Prac­ti­cal aids: Soft­ware-Assis­tent SISTEMA: Safe­ty Integri­ty — Soft­ware Tool for the Eval­u­a­tion of Machine Appli­ca­tions”,, 2017. [Online]. Avail­able: [Accessed: 30- Jan- 2017].

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