Managing Competency

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Health and Safety
Executive

Managing competence for
safety-related systems
Part 1: Key guidance
© Crow n copyright 2007
This guidance is issued by the Health and Safety Executive, the Inst itution of Engineering Technology and t he B rit ish Computer Society. Following t he guidance is not compulsory and you are f ree t o take other act ion. But if you do follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with t he law in Great Britain where t his is regulated by t he H ealt h and Safety Execut ive (HSE) . H SE inspect ors seek to secure 1

compliance with the law and may ref er t o t his guidance as illustrating good pract ice.

Introduction
1
This guidance on competence applies to ev eryone, in all industry sectors, whose decisions and w ork with safety-related systems can affect health and safety. The aim is for all people within scope to be suitably qualified and experienced for their own work ac tivities , roles and responsibilities .

2
A safety-related system according to this guidance is a system whose correct operation is necessary for ensuring or maintaining safety . It uses elec trical, electronic, and/or programmable electronic technologies and may include software and people. In general, safety-related systems can be classified as protec tion s ystems or control systems. 3

Example safety-related systems include a trip-switch that disconnects power from a press on close approach to moving par ts, traffic lights , vehicle engine management, boiler management, medical devices, fire management in an intelligent building, gas detection on an industrial chemical plant, emergency shutdown on an offshore gas platform, remote operation of a network-enabled process plant, access protection for nuclear reprocessing, fly-by-wire operation of aircraft flight control surfaces and any infor mation system where erroneous results can significantly affec t safety.

4 New technologies, par ticular ly programmable electronics, have enabled such systems to function more effec tively and allowed more sophisticated ways to make them safe. At the same time, the new technology has brought its own challenges – particularly increased design complexity . This has thrown the spotlight on the role of staff engaged in the design, development, maintenance and use of these safety-related systems. The achievement of sufficiently low levels of risk is critically dependent on individual and team competence.

1

The effort expended in meeting the p rinciples of this guidance should be in proportion to the risk associated with inadequate competence (see Risk and propo rtionality).

Managing competence for safety-related s ystems
Part 1: Key guid ance

1 of 20 p ages

Health an d Safety
Executi ve

5 In parallel, the pace of change in industry continues to accelerate, w ith frequent restructuring and much movement of s taff betw een r oles, between companies and even between sectors. Ever newer technology requires new skills. Even if new s taff possess these skills, they may be unfamiliar w ith the or ganisational culture in which they are to be exercised, and specifically the safety culture. Long term familiarity of managers w ith the capabilities of their staff can no longer be assumed, so increasingly or ganisations need to establish competence management systems in order to satisfy themselves , their customers and regulators that their staff are competent for the tasks to which they are assigned. 6 Standards makers have recognised the growing impor tance of competence. For example, in the lates t committee draft [Ref. 1] of the international standard on ‘Func tional safety of electrical/electronic /programmable electronic safety-related systems’ (IEC 61508) , the r equirement for staff competence is upgraded from a recommendation to a mandatory requirement for compliance.

7 The for m of this guidance is based on that of an already published railway-specific H SE publication, the Railway Safety...
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