Similarly, the system safety managers do not directly control any program activities. They function only with the program managers' or the commander's authority. They are effective only to the degree that the program managers are willing to accept guidance and advice, and only to the degree that the commander supports them. Fundamental to the mishap risk management concept is the requirement that competent and responsible safety management be assigned with centralized authority and totally capable of maintaining a continuous safety overview of the technical and management planning aspects of the entire program. The responsibility for preventing a mishap belongs to the program manager. It cannot be delegated. When the program manager makes the decision to initiate testing or commence operations, all risk inherent in the system has been accepted.
It is the task of the system safety manager to be sure that, when the decision is made, the decision maker is fully aware of the mishap risks that are accepted by that decision. If the program manager is allowed to make a decision without full knowledge of the inherent risks in the system, that manager, along with the taxpayers and the country, is being cheated. They are being cheated in that a critical decision, which could result in millions of dollars lost, is required to be made with incomplete information. There is no reason for this to happen. The tools and talent are available to provide this information. Properly used, this information can significantly reduce the risk of losing valuable equipment, personnel, and time. Program managers are not always aware of this or willing to use the resources which are available through the system safety process.
The program manager should begin establishing his system safety activity in a position of authority. The program is made effective by assuring an awareness of risk and the importance of reducing risk within all program elements down to the lowest organizational level. Each program element manager must periodically be held directly accountable to implement safety policies and decisions at the lowest organizational level possessing such authority. Most important, the program manager must assign a capable and knowledgeable watchdog to act as eyes and ears throughout the organization to ensure that the tasks are accomplished. The system safety manager is that watchdog, and to be effective, he must be assigned the authority to act directly as the safety agent of the program manager. In this capacity, the system safety manager assures that proper engineering and management expertise is brought to bear on a specific problem to identify and effect a solution. The task is to tie together, to monitor, and to influence activities for developing safe systems.
To be effective, continuous efforts from the large perspective of the total program, with an understanding of the various interrelationships among its organizational elements, are required. The system safety manager is a major motivating force for guiding system development safety through the evolutionary process and, as the program manager's agent, the system safety manager focuses the program manager's authority and responsibility on the program's safety aspects. The program manager, in turn, should require frequent progress reports to keep his fingers on the pulse of the system safety activity.
The mishap risk management concept evolved because the accepted approach of eliminating hazardous conditions through good engineering practice alone was not necessarily adequate to assure safe operation of complex military systems. Military development programs are traditionally success oriented. Program managers are not necessarily receptive to a function which tries to find out ways it can fail. Throughout the entire life cycle, program-oriented safety management is necessary if all of the safety-critical aspects of a system are to be controlled cost effectively. In planning and managing the reduction of risk, the system safety manager must be free, within the program structure, to exercise professional judgment and organizational flexibility with the authority of the program manager.
Source: USAF System Safety Handbook.
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