Resources - System Safety

Management and Planning of a System Safety Program.

Four essential factors or primary drivers of an effective system safety program that must be considered separately from other criteria are personnel qualifications and experience, managerial authority and control, effective program planning, and sufficient resources. If one of these is missing or insufficient, the program will fail.

1. Personnel Qualifications and Experience

To provide decision makers with adequate mishap risk assessments, the government program manager must insist that the contractor have fully qualified, responsive system safety management personnel. This is not an unreasonable requirement since the contractor’s system safety manager is the one who certifies, for his employer, that all safety requirements have been met.

To evaluate an individual’s qualifications, first one determines which one of the six system safety levels, mentioned below, applies to the job.

Six Levels of System Safety

The following six generic system safety levels provide a general idea of the variations in tasks and the way these tasks are evaluated.

Level One--Corporate or Headquarters. At this level, the system safety manager establishes policies and develops implementation tools such as standards and techniques. Generally, these individuals are responsible for overseeing multiple independent programs or cost centers. Qualifications should include a working knowledge of the other levels and experience in management and engineering principles.

Level Two--Procurement Activity. This level is predominant at the procurement activity where contracts are written, policies and implementation tools are turned into contractual direction. Contractors have some activity in this area when they write specifications for subcontractors or vendors. Professional safety expertise, coupled with an understanding of the procurement process and effective contractor communications, is required for effective performance.

Level Three--Contractor’s Management System Safety Program. At the contractor’s facility, the system safety manager uses contractual direction to develop, manage, and control the program and its resources. To perform effectively, this individual must not only know company policies, procedures, and practices but also he or she must understand the requirements, activities, and functions of level four, Contracting Engineering System Safety Program, and level five, Specifications and Requirements, incorporated into the design. Also, a good grasp of operational concepts, level six, is an asset.

Level Four--Contractor’s Engineering System Safety Program. The system safety engineer should possess in-depth knowledge of engineering concepts, the system, and associated mishap risk to implement the system safety program. The engineer develops design checklists, defines specific requirements, and performs analyses.

Level Five--Specifications and Requirements. At this level, engineers and designers, possessing minimal safety knowledge, incorporate safety criteria, specifications, and requirements into the system or product design. It is essential that they know how to convert these requirements and criteria into a safe design.

Level Six--Operational Location. The activities, at this level, usually occur at an operational location where the end product is used. The system users and operators take the system analysis and operational data, prepared at level four, Contractor’s Engineering System Safety Program, and level five, Specifications and Requirements incorporated into the design, and manage the operations. In-depth knowledge of the system’s operational concepts and characteristics is essential. To function effectively, individuals should be qualified at the contractor’s system safety program level—level three; at the program implementation level—level four; and at the specifications and requirements incorporation level—level five. Also, one should be knowledgeable of the principles at the second level, the procurement activity, and at the first level, corporate or headquarters.

Generally, the contractor’s system safety program effectiveness is evaluated on achievement in establishing and implementing the system safety program—levels three and four, respectively. Also, program effectiveness is measured by how well the specifications and requirements are incorporated into the design—level five and the success of the operational activities—level six. Operational success is influenced considerably by the quality of the system safety program at level three. Needless to say, dynamic interest at the corporate or headquarters level considerably enhances the overall system safety program’s effectiveness.

Usually, contractor activities encompass levels three through six; however, other levels sometimes are covered. Using a “Job Analysis Worksheet,” below, one assesses the job requirements for the specific level. You determine the major job requirements and the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) necessary to implement the program successfully.

Sample Job Analysis Worksheet

System Safety Manager Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA)
  1. Knowledge and ability to manage interrelationships of all components of a system safety program in support of both management and engineering activities. This includes planning, implementation, and authorization of monetary and personnel resources.
  2. Knowledge of theoretical and practical engineering principles and techniques.
  3. Knowledge of hazardous systems and environments.
  4. Knowledge of management concepts and techniques.
  5. Knowledge of this life-cycle acquisition process.
  6. Ability to apply fundamentals of diversified engineering disciplines to achieve system safety engineering objectives.
  7. Ability to adapt and apply system safety analytical methods and techniques to related scientific disciplines.
  8. Ability to do independent research on complex systems to apply safety criteria.
  9. Skill in the organization, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of scientific/engineering data in the recognition and solution of safety-related engineering problems.
  10. Skill in written and oral communication.
  11. Ability to keep abreast of changes in scientific knowledge and engineering technology and apply new information to the solution of engineering problems.
Major Job Requirements
  1. Acts as agent of the program manager for all system safety aspects of the program. Provides monthly briefings to the program management on the status of the system safety program.
  2. Serves as system safety manager or safety engineering functions of major programs. (KSA 1 through 10)
  3. Manages activities that review and evaluate information related to types and location of hazards. (KSA 1,2,3,4,6,8)
  4. Manages activities to perform extensive engineering studies to determine hazard levels and to propose solutions. (KSA 1,2,5,6,7,8,10)
  5. Manages the development of system guidelines and techniques for new/developing systems and emerging technologies. (KSA 5,6,7,8,9)
  6. Provides system safety engineering expertise to identify/solve multidisciplinary problems involving state-of-the-art technology. (KSA 10)

The system safety manager requests the contractor to submit a position description that addresses the job functions and supports major job requirements, and the candidate’s resume. The position description is reviewed against the job requirements; then, reviewed against each KSA to determine if the candidate is really qualified to perform the job. Sample position descriptions are in Attachment I of this chapter. Normally, when a waiver is granted, it will be valid only for the specific program requested.

2. Management Authority and Control

The system safety manager’s authority and control may be evaluated at various stages in the program. First, by reviewing the contractor’s proposal, which usually contains a preliminary system safety program plan, one ascertains the type of system safety program being established. The acquisition manager should review the proposal for the following points:

  • What is the reporting level of the safety manager?
  • What is the relationship between safety and the other disciplines?
  • Can the safety manager effectively do the job in the proposed organization?
  • Does the contractor recognize and understand the requirements?
  • Does the contractor visualize his job at the right level and focus on the end events and products?

Later, by evaluating the updated system safety program plan, the system safety manager is able to assess if the proposed program is a reality.

3. System Safety Program Planning

An effective system safety program results primarily because both government and contractor program management recognize the importance of the planning task. The contractor’s system safety tasks and activities will be implemented. To a major extent, the contractor’s approach determines the program effectiveness in terms of cost and technical value. Since warning signs of an ineffective program may arise during the plan preparation, the system safety manager may prevent an ill-conceived safety program by conducting early evaluations and discussions with the contractor. The contractor’s problems in system safety planning phases are complex and not always obvious to either the preparer or the evaluator. Effective planning includes a systematic, detailed overall program analysis and the application of system safety requirements. One way to achieve this is to break down the entire program into tasks and subtasks as the basic elements relate to each program organizational element.

The system safety manager must determine the resources necessary to complete each task element and the organizational element responsible for task completion. These organizations have funds for system safety tasks allocated in their budgets. If possible, the system safety manager should control both manning and monetary resources. Effectiveness evaluation includes how well the planning phase was accomplished.

An excellent proposal and plan are nothing more than beautiful prose without adequate resources to accomplish the job. The right level of effort for each task and sufficient funds to obtain necessary engineering assistance must be allocated and applied appropriately. In evaluating a system safety program’s resources, manning is a prime consideration. As a general rule of thumb, the following scale was developed to assist in considering the adequacy of manning resources depending on system complexity:

  • Level One. One and a half to two qualified system safety managers for each major subordinate organization.
  • Level Two. One to two dedicated system safety managers for each three major program segments or one dedicated person for each segment of $5,000,000 or more.
  • Level Three. One qualified manager for each program segment of $5,000,000 or more. For programs less than
  • $5,000,000, it is acceptable to consider attestment from an outside consultant to the effect that all requirements have been met.
  • Level Four. Five percent of engineering manning for each major program segment.
  • Level Five. At least one dedicated engineer for each major subsystem or for each system segment.
  • Level Six. The manning requirements at this level vary considerably with system and operational complexity, number of facilities or areas involved. System safety manning should never be less than one qualified engineer/manager for each major operational segment.

Source: USAF System Safety Handbook.

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