-Han Solo, Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980

I have enjoyed watching and reading about the actions of the fictional Star Wars character Han Solo over the years.  I recall hearing the above quotation more than once.  And as much as I enjoyed watching this character, I do not think he would make a good Process Safety Engineer. Someone who dashes into death defying situations without any analysis of the odds should not be deciding the risk levels for many other people.

Then I saw a comment sent to the IEC 61511 committee where essentially the author wanted probabilistic analysis eliminated.  I immediately thought of Han Solo.  A functional safety process could be set up without knowing the odds but designs would have to account for worst case conditions.  The opportunity to optimize cost to match risk would be gone.  It is easy to imagine such a process would have higher costs and reduced safety.  It is certainly possible to operate a functional safety process almost identical to requested change by using “design templates” that have been verified using the three “Design Barriers.”  These templates can be used for any project that meets the assumptions of the SIF verification

But the use of probabilistic analysis allows the flexibility to deal with unique problems and site specific issues when the template assumptions do not apply.  Many of the engineers I know understand this and do wish to know the odds.  I am thinking that those who say “never tell me the odds” might consider a different career where lack of analysis is a necessary and positive attribute.  Perhaps the Captain of smuggler space ship?  

Tagged as:     SIF verification     probabilistic analysis     IEC 61511     functional safety     Dr. William Goble  

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