Greater safety for everyone – but with fewer personnel?

Greater safety for everyone – but with fewer personnel?

by 7. February 2019

Two opposing trends?

Functional safety is undoubtedly an issue that affects us all. Whether you are the owner/operator of a system (requirements, standards, laws), a worker in this system (responsibility and personal safety) or a resident who is concerned about their safety.

Safety affects everyone! But who is actually taking care of it?

Two opposing trends can be identified. On the one hand, the proportion of technical inputs/outputs (I/O) in a system that are relevant to safety is increasing. In both absolute and relative terms. Conversations with industry reveal that around 10% of the I/O of a system used to be relevant to safety, but this figure is now approaching 20%. The number of rules and standards is also increasing. Although they are not laws, it is a good idea for system operators to observe them. And there is another trend, namely of reducing the number of personnel within companies to the absolute minimum.

Do these things go together? No, or perhaps “yes and no”.

Measures to increase efficiency within companies, like “Industry 4.0” and “Operational Excellence” to name just two, are seen as involving efforts to achieve the lowest possible number of employees. But it is not easy to find the right level. Some typical negative effects include having such reduced staffing levels on a shift that reserve workers need to be used in the event of illness or during holiday periods, or that projects are disregarded because there are simply no personnel available to implement or at least support them. These things are all far from ideal, but they are nothing compared to when operational safety and the integrity of safety systems are jeopardised by a lack of personnel.

Training is one way to make up (at least in part) for the staff shortage!

If we look at the lifecycle of safety systems, we can draw a distinction between two major phases. The first phase is about risk assessment, specification and design of the safety systems. The engineers employed to do this are appropriately qualified and undergo continuous training (e.g. TÜV Certified Safety Engineer). The second phase is about the implementation, operation and maintenance of the safety systems. And this is where we find the crux of the matter: There are obviously only a limited number of safety engineers, and in daily work the operators and maintenance personnel have much more to do with the safety system than the (few) individual safety engineers. Another factor is that after the first phase, the number of safety engineers and thus the available knowledge of the safety systems reduces (e.g.  due to age and staff turnover). It is then up to the operating company/management to ensure its pool of operators, maintenance personnel, etc. are appropriately trained and qualified with the following goal in mind:

Functional Safety Technician (SIS) (TÜV Certified)

What’s good for the safety engineer is good for the safety technician!

The safety technician cannot and should not replace the safety engineer. The Training Functional Safety Technician gives technicians and employees the necessary knowledge of functional safety during the operating phase, based on the latest version of the international IEC 61508 and IEC 61511 standards. This means they are able relieve the workload on the safety engineer in the operating phase of the safety systems, as well as make a more active contribution themselves to operational safety and implement a more targeted response in the event of safety incidents.

Greater safety through greater knowledge – a win-win for us all.

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