Every man takes care that his neighbor shall not cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbor. Then all goes well.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
I like to think about functional safety in a similar way. We all want to be safe; it’s one of humanity’s primary needs. But are we taking care to make our neighbor safe?
Functional safety standards IEC 61508 and IEC 61511 serve as a set of principles, techniques, best practices, and requirements to help us build a safer world. Risks are analyzed, hazards are identified, and mitigation measures are developed. Practitioners put procedures in place to follow these standards. We can always “talk a good game plan,” but will it make sense, and will it be effective in keeping us safe?
These procedures trickle down to all the team members who develop and build the equipment and run the process plants… the hands-on folks. So we need to make sure that these procedures are effective and practical. We need to know these procedures can and will be followed. We need to prevent shortcuts and bypasses of procedures when they adversely affect safety. But we need to listen to the hands-on folks when they point out how cumbersome or ineffective a procedure is. They are the ones who will make us and our neighbors safe. And I’m sure they themselves want to be safe. Safety is, after all, everybody’s job. It takes a team effort.