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

Silas is a safety inspector who obtained his Master of Science in Safety and MBA degrees.

Mitigate risk through engineering instead of management system

Mitigate risk through engineering instead of management system

Designing out hazards from the start provides a best practice that enhances safety. For example, the engineering involved removing or reducing hazards from the start of a project or program. Essentially, engineering out the hazards provides an option to reduce the number of hazards that enable one to manage the program after implementing a machine, device, or product that may injure or create an accident. Bahr (2015) mentions that designing out the hazard requires using the upper echelon of the hierarchy of controls. The upper echelon includes engineering, substitution, and elimination. While engineering cannot eliminate all hazards, the safety system moves toward managing the process through the safety management systems (SMS) process.

Engineering hazards out from the start reduces risk by decreasing the likelihood and severity of a hazard. For example, an airplane's certification through safety engineering pays dividends to public safety by prevention during the design phase. After the airline adds the airplane to the fleet, the safety management system (SMS) provides a method to oversee and manage the airline operation. Therefore, engineering hazards out during the airplane certification provides a starting point for the safety management systems (SMS) process to manage safety throughout the aircraft lifecycle. Removing as many hazards within the engineering phase places the SMS process at an advantage to manage operational risk due to engineering out hazards.

This article provides reason to align engineering techniques with safety management processes to support a safety program.

UAS do not require engineering processes

UAS do not require engineering processes

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Do Not Require Safety Engineering

Another example involves unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operating in the airspace, mixing with airliners, and delivering packages into urban areas. Part 107 allows small unmanned aircraft to operate in the airspace with manned aircraft without requiring equipment certification. The element of safety engineering does not exist within the safety framework or part 107. Instead, safety oversight involves the use of a voluntary safety management system (SMS) process. The FAA requires the pilot to mitigate risk and utilizing SMS as a sole proprietary presents problems for the industry.

An automobile company may involve using technology to operate the vehicle without a human at the controls. Using controls to eliminate hazards enhances safety. An example includes increasing the number of safety guards, such as seat belts, airbags, brake detection, lane change detector, or fuel pump stops after a crash from the tailgate. It is debatable to imagine the implications without engineering out hazards and requiring the drive to manage the hazards, risks, and controls. SMS begins at a disadvantage by utilizing only the management components of the process. Thus, eliminating the safety engineering phase of hazard discovery, managing risk could become unbearable, and an increase in an accident would presumably elevate to unacceptable levels.

Prevention through design

Prevention through design

Prevention Through Design (PTD)

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (2015), controlling hazard exposure involves protecting the employee through controls. Controls provide a means to implement practical solutions. The use of the hierarchy of controls remains as a Prevention through Design (PtD) strategy. In other words, eliminating the hazard from a system at the beginning increases the chance for success to reduce workforce injuries. Next, hazard control through engineering versus a risk assessment presents an interesting debate. According to Nelson (2021), accidents that create harm remain preventable. A reduction in injury requires controlling the system's design or controlling the action or human behavior. Controlling the design of a product or machine of potentially unsafe conditions associated with the hardware starts at the beginning of construction or the device design phase.

Safety Management Systems (SMS)

Safety Management Systems (SMS)

Safety Management Systems (SMS)

On the other hand, identifying and controlling potential unsafe actions after implementing a system stipulates work methods and procedures used to manage a safety system after the fact. In honesty, using both engineering and management processes presents the best option. For example, safety engineering involves the removal of as many hazards as possible during the construction and design phase. Engineering controls may include a machine guard to prevent a worker from an amputation. After the device or implementation of the system, SMS supports the management of the safety oversight program. Thus, SMS identifies hazards, determines the risk level, and develops controls to reduce risk or eliminate the operational hazards. Thus, both philosophies present a well-rounded method of safety oversight during the lifecycle of the safety program to prevent a catastrophic event. Without engineering, safety at the beginning forces the SMS program into an unreasonable start sequence. The program requires time to maneuver through each SMS category and extends the timeline to identify the hazards. Instead, eliminating hazards during the engineering phase presents a better option than managing the hazard within the SMS program as a single safety element.

Align safety engineering and management systems to eliminate and reduce risk

Align safety engineering and management systems to eliminate and reduce risk

Align Safety Engineering and Management Systems to Eliminate Hazards and Reduce Risks

A risk assessment matrix involves the use of probability or likelihood and severity. Determining the probability and severity identifies a level of risk using the 4x5 matrix. According to Manuele (2005), the risk incurred from the hazard includes a low, medium, and high level. After determining the risk level, management must decide through policy whether the risk remains acceptable or unacceptable. In other words, high risk identifies the operation as not permissible. Medium risk suggests action necessary or a high priority to reduce the risk into the low category. Low risk suggests the operational danger remains acceptable and remedial action remains discretionary. Utilizing engineering practices alleviates hazards that the SMS program may not present a means to reduce risk. Therefore, eliminating hazards remains the primary function related to engineering instead of managing the risk through an SMS program utilizing administrative and personal protective equipment. It remains highly unlikely that SMS alone presents the best option. Instead, aligning SMS with safety engineering practices allows for proper safety oversight.

Safety Series

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

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

References

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