It’s an interesting question and one I asked myself. For any engineer and/or professional working in the controls business or process industries where safety-related equipment is required, it is essential (per IEC61511-1 Clause 5.2.2: Organization and Resources) to prove competency to carry out any safety-lifecycle activities. So what does this mean? Again, this same clause defines some of the minimum criteria that need consideration when looking at competency. However, the standard does not require that the person(s) involved in safety-lifecycle activities should be certified. So then, why should I get certified?
Competency to me can mean several things, not least of which is experience and the ability to apply knowledge. Speaking from experience, I began my career in the late 1970s as a software/hardware design engineer, involved in designing early micro-processor based safety systems. This was pre-IEC61508/IEC61511 standards when I was involved in safety system design and implementation for Emergency Shutdown and Fire and Gas Systems, throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. However, this was well over a decade ago. So does that make me competent? Not necessarily. Understanding the fundamentals of safety system design yes. Understanding how to implement the full phases of the safety lifecycle? No.
It is for this reason I decided to study the IEC61511 standard and to read Practical SIL Target Selection - Risk Analysis per the IEC 61511 Safety Lifecycle and Safety Instrumented Systems Verification - Practical Probabilistic Calculations before taking the Certified Functional Safety Professional (CFSP) exam. This was certainly an eye-opener for me and taking the certification exam proved to be a good test of my knowledge and understanding. The important thing is that the exam is not an academic exercise of just crunching numbers to get PFD and SIL rating. It presents the examinee with practical real world problems and situations to solve, which is a much more relevant and practical approach (and a better measure of true competence).
If reading this blog makes you wonder whether to become certified, I would recommend taking the exam because it really will test your practical knowledge and ability to apply this to real situations. The result, if you pass, will be the knowledge and confidence to carry out safety lifecycle related activities, as well as recognition by your peers and industry that you are competent.