As an engineer responsible for critical industrial processes, we face a variety of challenges:

  • coping with new and changing standards
  • increased pressures for process uptime and plant safety
  • a growing list of responsibilities
  • decreased availability of support personnel

This makes it difficult to develop, maintain, and document the expertise needed to excel at our job. A lot companies have even been driven to run leaner operations and optimize performance.  

Company awareness

Company awareness can help reduce the risk for catastrophic safety-related accidents potentially saving them millions. Consequently, it is more important than ever to have competent personnel in safety system design be part of the process for engineering and deploying safety equipment.

Having trained, competent people is a requirement for compliance with international safety standards IEC 61508, IEC 61511 / ISA 84, and IEC 62061. 

Gaining functional safety knowledge can save money by simplifying regulatory compliance, reducing engineering costs, and preventing unplanned downtime.  Completing a personnel functional safety certification program, such as the CFSE, can help address these challenges.

Standards require proof of qualification to insure safety knowledge and skills are up to date, and some companies now require CFSE holders to oversee safety projects and CFSP holders to execute them.

The CFSE program is the most stringent personell certification program and represents the best demonstration of competency in the world.

 We are now going to walk through the application process and learn what it takes to become a leader in our industry.

How do you know if you are eligible?

Lets first look at the CFSP requirements

A candidate that is applying for CFSP must have a minimum of 2 years of safety related experience.  As you can see from the chart in front of you this experience doesn’t have to be JUST professional experience but can be school experience as well.

Now let’s take a look at the CFSE requirements.

To become a CFSE you will need 10 years of experience.  Do you meet the requirements? Notice that with a higher level of education you may subtract respective years from the 10 year minimum to qualify.

For example, if you have your bachelor’s degree in engineering you may subtract 3 years from the 10 year requirement.  As long as you have been in the field as an engineer for greater than 7 years you qualify!

Applying to be a CFSE / CFSP

Now that you understand the initial requirements, lets start looking at the applcation. The first step in becoming a CFSE or CFSP is to fill out the application.  This quick 4 page application asks mostly for generic information.  

Some of that information will include:

  1. Which exam you are going to take
  2. Personal information (Name, Address, Contact information etc..)
  3. Education
  4. Professional Experience
  5. Professional References (Referees)

Once finished you can email the CFSE Administrators!  That’s right, no need to send ANY documents via the postal service.  You may email everything!  Scan or copy the documents and email them to

A quick comment on the education portion of the application.  Many people ask us about the transcripts and if they must request these from their respective universities.  The short answer is No.  You may simply scan a copy of your diploma and send it electronically.

Once the application gets sent to the CFSE Administrators, it then gets submitted into the CFSE Database and then into the CFSE/CFSP Tracker.  The Administrators will then send a “Welcome Email” to the applicant when all information has been received and they have been APPROVED and eligible to take an exam. If you see this welcome email you have been officially QUALIFIED and you meet the initial requirements.

At this time an applicant turns into a candidate.  A candidate is someone that meets requirements and can sit for an exam. A candidate will now be given a username and password for the CFSE/CFSP tracker. As the candidate sends in their application, the tracker system will be updated to show which items are complete and which are outstanding.

Helpful tips:

You may sit an exam with an incomplete application however you will not be given your results until the application is complete.

 Please note: that if you are using a gmail or hotmail account to communicate with our CFSE administrators PLEASE PLEASE place their email in your “Safe Sender” list.

The CFSE / CFSP Tracker

Here is a view that one would see when they log into their CFSE/CFSP tracker system.  Notice that the candidate can immediately see if ANYTHING is outstanding.

The tracker system will be updated when items are received from the candidate. 

When all fields are “COMPLETE” you will be able to receive your exam results as soon as the exam has been graded! (When you take the exam ofcourse)

If you were to take the exam PRIOR to these fields being complete, the exam results will be set aside and NOT released until the application is complete.

It is the responsibility of the candidate to confirm that his or her application is complete.

NOTE: The CFSE/CFSP tracking system is constantly improving.  The tracking system was created to help candidates awareness. 

You've Applied.  Now It's exam time!

The CFSP exam

The CFSP exam is 4 hours long and is normally held in the morning starting at 9AM.  The exam consists of short answer and multiple choice questions. There are 40 multiple choice questions and 10 short answer questions. 

Category No.  of Questions Points Minimum Score
Multiple Choice 40 1 each None except 80% overall requirement
Short Answer Candidate chooses 10 out of 12 possible questions 2 each None except 80% overall requirement

Note: On the short answer part you only have to answer 10 of the questions.  There will be more questions on the exam than you need to answer.  This way if a short answer question isn’t understood or if it is in an area of lesser expertise then you may select a different question.

In order to pass the examination you will need a passing score of 80%.

The CFSE exam

The CFSE exam consists of two parts.

The first part is in the morning along side the CFSP exam.  The morning session for CFSE is Short answer and a Case Study.  You will have 4 hours to complete the short answer and case study.  You will need to answer a total of 50 points of  questions amongst the short answer and the case study part. 

The afternoon session starts at 2pm and

lasts for 2 hours (4pm).  The afternoon session consists of multiple choice. In order to pass the exam the candidate will have to score at leas

t 60% in the multiple choice, 70% in the short answer/case study category, and 80% for the total examination.

For example, if you score a 70% on the short answer / case study section, you will need an even higher MC score in order to hit the overall 80% to pass the exam.

Category No. of Questions Points Minimum Score
Multiple Choice 50 1 30
Short Answer/Case Study Candidate chooses 50 points worth of
2-20 point questions from ~20 possible questions
50 35

Exam Preperation

Now that you have selected an exam type it's time to prepare!  Here are some helpful tips on materials and items that we feel you should bring into the exam: 

Useful documents permitted for the CFSE/CFSP examination:

  • Non-programmable calculator
  • Published reference materials: Standards like IEC 61508 (Part 1) ISO 26262 IEC 61511 IEC62061
  • Process Applications: Bring at least part 1 of 61511 Machine Applications: Bring at least 62061 Software: Bring at least part 3 of 61508
    Hardware: Bring at least part 2 of 6150

* You must supply your own documentation, manuals or standards for your exam. 

Documents NOT permitted for the CFSE/CFSP exam:

  • Computer or laptops
  • Mobile phones
  • Programmable calculators
  • Exam – specific notes
  • Other textbooks, publicly available published course materials, and workbooks are also allowed and may be useful to the candidates. Although occasional general hand notes in personal exam-specific notes. If you purchased the CFSE/CFSP Study Guide it IS permitted for the exam.

Types of documents required for identification to show when signing in for the exam:

  • Government issued passport (or)
  • Photograph driver’s license

Candidates will not be admitted to the examination after the announcements have been given.

We understand that there could be issues commuting (traveling) to the exam, however, for those that planned ahead and allowed for enough time to sit the exam we do not want distractions for those candidates. If you miss the exam we will allow you to pick a new date at a later time with no penalty.

Exam Grading

Now that the exam preparation and exam taking is finished, what happens next?

The proctor will package the exams and mail them to the CFSE corporate office.

Your exam will now be graded.  There are 2 graders that will be assigned to your specific exam.  These graders do not know anything about the candidate.  All they see is a candidate ID number.  This helps keep our graders impartial.  The graders also CANNOT be the proctor nor the trainer. The CFSE program is extremely strict when it comes to keeping trainers and graders separate, following the ANSI IEC 17024 standard. 

If a trainer was allowed to grade an exam this could create a conflict of interest.  

If a program gives a training class and then gives an exam from that training material, would you feel confident that they are an “Expert” or “Professional” in their field when they pass?

Here is another example: If I want to be known as the BEST and well respected car Mechanic in the world, would you feel ok if I decided to take a week long training class, take an exam from the trained material and when I pass that exam to then call me an EXPERT.  Knowing this, would you feel ok if I was to replace a clutch or even a piston in your car??  

Believe it or not. This is NOT uncommon.  Many organizations out there currently do this.  Why? Because it’s a great way to build reputation and create a revenue income stream with a very HIGH pass rate.  The CFSE/CFSP program is NOT interested in this.  We are more interested in producing safer more reliable experts.

When you become a CFSP or CFSE…. You should walk around with your shoulders and head held high. There is no other certification program (in my opinion) that is as prestigious and more thorough than ours. 

Ok getting back to the exam grading!! 

Once the first grader looks through your exam and reads all of your comments he assigns a score and gives the exam back to the CFSE administration.  The administration then take the exam and sends it off to Grader #2.  This grader then reviews grader 1’s remarks and comments and RE grades the exam. 

When both graders finish a score is given.  If grader 1 scores a passing grade and grader 2 scores a failing grade, the CFSE Administration assigns a THIRD grader to review the discrepancies.  

Once this is finished the CFSE Administration will verify that the application is complete, update the CFSE tracker system, and the results are sent out!

Tagged as:     Ted Stewart     ISA 84     IEC 61511     IEC 61508     cfsp     CFSE exam     cfse     Certified Functional Safety Expert     Certified Function Safety Professional  

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