Skip to main content

Part 1: Why Does Safety Engineering Become Necessary for Business Success in a Global Economy?

Safety Engineering

Safety Engineering

Engineering provides an acceptable safety level that aims to ensure that the system operates without injuring personnel. In other words, the safety engineer designs out the hazards during the construction and design phase. Bahr (2015) mentions that prevention through design presents a process that identifies hazards before a customer uses a particular piece of equipment. Without engineering, in the beginning, a design or process can present problems while trying to manage the operation, device, or process after entering service. Additionally, without engineering and waiting until the equipment fails within the safety management system (SMS) process presents a reactive means of safety oversight.

Today, safety engineering and safety management must align to enable a robust, proactive safety program. With one process, removing the other cannot likely sustain the level of safety organizations desire. Pelegrin (2012) mentions that implementing engineering processes improves management activity, efficiency, and engineering findings. Engineering processes prevent management problems related to assumptions and limitations. Therefore, aligning both processes to eliminate hazards during the engineering phase and managing the operation presents merit. Thus, both processes relate to one another through a similar framework that supports the entire safety system.

This article explains the reason to align safety engineering systems with safety management systems to develop solutions to complex problems.

Cause and Consequence

Cause and Consequence

Cause and Consequences

Designing and engineering equipment to behave as planned from the beginning moves the process toward a proactive measure and aids in business success. According to Dorman (2000), the economic perspective on safety encompasses cause and consequence. The economics of safety provide better working conditions for the workforce, and better working conditions produce a business profit. Business success in a global economy aligns with safety oversight. For example, Deming developed the plan, do, check, and act (PDCA) cycle using components to manage, organize, and improve upon a program.

Bahr (2015) utilizes five tasks to oversee safety engineering as a starting point. Each of the topics includes hazard identification, cause determination, develop controls, control competency, and observe work systems. Both programs align in similarities to improve upon a method that enhances an otherwise complex process. McKinnon (2017) mentions that safety management systems present an ongoing progression to control risk and improve safety and health activities by improving operational processes. The Deming plan, do, check, and act (PDCA) cycle presents a methodology that has no end and presents a continuous cycle while managing a program. Safety planning using the four-step process allows a determination of action to predetermine the consequence of accidents and results when limited action occurs.

Aligning engineering and management systems

Aligning engineering and management systems

Aligning Engineering and Management Systems

Differences exist between the Deming and Bahr processes. One must understand the relationship to know where each process fits within the safety program. Bahr's program helps to develop or start a safety program while Deming's process improves upon an existing program. For example, McKinnon (2017) mentions that SMS programs provide a framework to oversee the safety program. Quality management systems present an opportunity to improve upon an existing program to enhance business performance (Bhatia, 2014). The Deming process incorporates the Lean Six-Sigma function to improve a process already in existence. Therefore, the Bahr program involves developing a new safety program, while Deming includes improving an existing SMS process. In this case, the Bahr framework starts developing a safety program through engineering practice, while Deming tasks improve upon managing the project.

Another option suggests that Bahr's process provides the foundation for safety engineering and Deming's cycle management throughout the program's lifecycle. Each process provides a meaningful method to manage the safety program. Bahr's program focuses on engineering with leading performance indicators (Bahr, 2015). Deming's PDCA cycle aligns to manage the safety program after establishing Bahr's program to undertake safety engineering. According to McKinnon (2017), Bahr tasks represent the safety engineering structure while the Deming cycle represents a safety management system. Incorporating both processes presents merit to incorporate science with art. Table 1 identifies the Bahr and Deming tasks to develop an effective system safety structure.

Table 1: Bahr Engineering and Deming Management Processes

Table 1: Bahr Engineering and Deming Management Processes

Bahr Engineering TasksDeming PDCA Cycle

1 Identify Hazards 2. Determine Cause

1. Plan (Policy, Process)

3. Acquire Controls

2. Do (Initiate, Implement)

4. Check Control Usefulness

3. Check (Inspect, Audit)

5. Observe System & Take Action

4. Act (Correct, Modify)

Scroll to Continue
Accident Examples

Accident Examples

Accident Examples

Equipment failures can happen and often result in fatalities. For example, two Boeing 737 MAX airplanes crashed, causing 346 fatalities following a stall prevention design flaw that involved engineering, training, and safety oversight (National Transportation Safety Board, 2019). Human error presents itself through mistakes made at all levels. Error included the pilot, engineer, and manufacturing personnel involved in the process. Each aircraft designed to operate with a reduced likelihood and severity resulted in multiple failures that took the lives of over 300 people. According to Gates (2019), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) followed the standard certification process on the 737 MAX. Dwyer (2020) mentions that the 737 MAX presented evidence of failed safety oversight that did not protect the flying public. Oversight requires action and observation of the system in a proactive manner to determine whether the controls put in place remain effective.

Unfortunately, the 737 engineering process missed the equipment failure that created the hazard during the construction design phase. Also, the safety assurance phase of the SMS program did not revisit the implemented controls, such as training, to determine whether the strategy remained sufficient and expectations prevented an accident. Safety engineering and safety management present two separate processes that can and most likely develop gaps. The training gap within each process did not align to eliminate the hazard produced by the wing stall technology. Thus, future research should identify options that identify and bridge the gaps to reduce the severity of a hazard noted within the engineering and management system.

Oversee safety with engineering and management systems

Oversee safety with engineering and management systems

Oversee Safety with Engineering and Management Systems

Using the Deming and Bahr processes align science and art with overseeing a safety program (Bahr, 2015). The processes acknowledge actions, and observation of controls throughout the safety program's lifecycle present the best option to design and manage complex safety programs. The 737 MAX accidents created an economic impact that affected multiple airlines worldwide. Highly competitive markets require safety engineering and management systems to prevent the loss, personal harm, and equipment failure.

To align safety and prevent business from an economic failure requires processes to oversee safety throughout the program's lifecycle. Safety engineering provides a broad array of activities involved to eliminate hazards. Next, a failure in a safety system is acceptable, while loss of life per 10 to the 9th power or hours of continuous operation reduces the likelihood of a failure. The FAA certifies manned aircraft at this level. Multiple industries have used the cost versus the loss of life for medical equipment, aircraft manufacturing, and nuclear reactors. Finally, Bahr and Deming's processes relate to one another to eliminate risk during the engineering and management phase of the system safety program.

Safety Series

Part 2: How to Mitigate Risk by Using the Philosophy of Engineering Instead of Safety Management Systems (SMS)

Part 3: How to Incorporate a Diagnostic Evaluation into a Safety Management System (SMS)


Related Articles