You may be wondering why this question is being asked? Isn’t it obvious that systematic issues are important and need to be considered? It may be that some of you reading this blog may not even understand what is meant by systematic issues. In which case, it may surprise you to know that the cause of the majority of major accidents is down to some form of systematic failures.
The 3 P's
So, what are systematic failures or issues?
In essence, it comes down to what we call the 3 Ps:
Personnel is all about how well trained, qualified and competent employees are at carrying out functional safety-related tasks.
Procedures is all about having well-defined, easily understandable and implemented operational procedures.
Paperwork is all about having a paper trail that demonstrates that we are following what we said we’d be doing in regards to the implementation of functional safety and functional safety management.
If personnel are poorly trained and/or fail to follow procedures; if the procedures themselves are incorrect or ambiguous, then we are more likely to have problems and issues. The paperwork also provides a means of being able to investigate and audit, which provides opportunities for improvements and analysis of failures/issues.
Functional Safety Management
In my opinion, functional safety management should be viewed as the ‘glue’ that holds it all together when following the IEC61511 safety lifecycle. This seems to be an area that is often overlooked and not paid the attention that’s needed to enforce functional safety and to help safeguard against systematic issues being introduced during the 3 phases of the safety lifecycle.
Many times, accidents can be avoided by just paying the extra attention to the 3 Ps to ensure as much vigilance as possible is paid in preventing a failure in any of the 3 Ps from occurring. Performing regular audits will help with identifying potential issues and gaps with regards to this. By understanding what constitutes systematic errors/failures, will help companies be in a better position to address and enforce the 3 Ps. For example, undertaking a functional safety assessment (FSA 4) will focus in on the operational aspects and will be able to identify lapses in following functional safety, in terms of the periodic performance assessments being carried out on personnel.
The impact of systematic issues on the safe operation of the plant cannot be underestimated and/or overstated. End users should be vigilant in following and implementing functional safety management to ensure adequate protection is maintained against the risk of systematic errors being introduced.
If this blog has piqued your interest, then look out for the upcoming webinar on systematic issues.