In today’s modern society there is an increasing demand for “safer” products/systems, which have to meet increasingly demanding standards. The management of “risk” is a major factor in ensuring that a product/system can meet its design objectives, as well as satisfying the required standards and, even more importantly, meeting the need in a cost-effective manner.
As human beings living in a civilized, modern society, we take risks every day; in driving to work, crossing the road, and even within the home. You may be surprised to learn that most accidents happen in the home. There are many reasons why this should be: we spend most of our time at home; we feel safer, therefore, we take less care and attention. Perhaps it is more a case of “familiarity breeds contempt.” The more we do something, the less we tend to think or worry about it hence, the less care we often take. The consequences can sometimes be fatal.
In many ways managing risk is no different. Being experienced in product/system design/development does not necessarily mean making fewer mistakes. On the contrary, it can sometimes mean being able to take short cuts or, considered another way, take less care. Managing technical risk requires a balance of experience, prudence, and tenacity.
The need to also understand what has to be achieved, as well as the consequences of getting it wrong in terms of the human, political, financial, and commercial aspects is paramount. It may appear obvious that it is only a question of “common sense” and “good engineering practice” to solving the product/system design problem. However, this alone is not enough. The risks must be known before they can be managed and it is always better to know than not know which is one of the first steps in risk management.
Today’s risk is tomorrow’s problem so the need to assess and understand is essential to ensure safeguards are included. People are fallible and so having a structured, rigorous, and proven process is essential to safe product/system design. Applying the IEC 61508 and IEC 61511 standards during product/system design requires a disciplined and well trained workforce. Having years of proven experience, exida certainly agrees that a well-shaped plan to ensure that all safety lifecycle requirements are met is a necessary step for companies to take. Don’t let familiarity breed contempt in your workforce and increase risk.