What is Functional Safety? (And other FAQs)

If you’re new to the world of Functional Safety, ESC’s new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section might be a good place to start.  Here’s a sneak preview, starting with the most obvious (yet least understood) question of all:

What is Functional Safety?

According to IEC 61508-4 (IEC 61508 is the international standard that applies to ’safety-related control systems’) , Functional safety is ‘part of the overall safety relating to the Equipment Under Control (EUC) which depends on the correct functioning of the Electrical / Electronic /Programmable Electronic safety-related systems, other technology safety-related systems and external risk reduction facilities.’

Or to put it another way:

Functional Safety System Example - New to Functional Safety? Engineering Safety Consultnts introduction to Functional SafetyPart of the overall safety that depends on a control system or equipment operating correctly in response to its inputs. Functional safety is achieved when every specified safety function is carried out and the level of performance required of each safety function is met.

Functional Safety relies on active systems. The system is continuously monitoring the equipment and takes an executive action to prevent a hazardous event from occurring. An example of such is the temperature monitoring of a chemical reactor which takes appropriate action to stop the feed upon the detection of a runaway reaction, or addition of cooling whichever is defined as the appropriate action.

Passive systems such as fire protection doors, bunds / dykes and protective insulation are not part of the scope of functional safety.

In order to establish if there are any Functional Safety requirements on your process or system then a hazard analysis should be conducted. This will identify whether functional safety systems are required to ensure that adequate protection is provided for each hazardous event which is present. The outcome of the work will establish the requirements for the functional safety systems.

Functional Safety FAQs

Here are some of the other items covered in our FAQ section:

  • What does IEC 61508 cover?
  • How do the regulatory authorities view IEC 61508?
  • What is a SIL?
  • What is a SIF?
  • Applications of IEC 61508
  • How does the use of SIL certified equipment affect achieving functional safety for a system?
  • How does functional safety apply to systems preventing environmental damage or severe financial loss?
  • What is a FSA?
  • What is a HAZOP?
  • What is a SIL Determination Study?
  • What is a SIL Verification Study?
  • What is a QRA?
  • What is IEC 61511 and what does it cover?
  • What is IEC 62061 and what does it cover?
  • What is ISO 13849 and what does it cover?

This should help to understand the basic fundamentals of what can be a rather complex topic.

All FAQ’s

Functional Safety Training

If you’d like to know more, why not check out our events page and book on to one of our FREE seminars.  If that doesn’t fully quench your thirst for Functional Safety, maybe try one of our training courses (including the prestigious TÜV Rheinland Functional Safety Program), led by our own industry-renowned Functional Safety experts.

At ESC, our expert consultants are unashamed Functional Safety geeks and are always keen to help, so if you have a problem or query and are drowning in a sea of acronyms (SIL, SIF, SRS, SIS, SAR etc.), drop us a line.  It’s what we do.