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System Safety

System safety is one of the specialty engineering functions of systems engineering. For Department of Defense (DoD) programs, system safety is guided by MIL-STD-882E, Department of Defense Standard Practice: System Safety. System safety applies from the inception of a program of record through the demilitarization of the system and contains eight elements:

  1. Document the system safety approach
  2. Identify and document hazards
  3. Assess and document risk
  4. Identify and document risk mitigation measures
  5. Reduce risk
  6. Verify, validate, and document risk reduction
  7. Accept risk and document
  8. Manage life-cycle risk

System safety engineers apply a standard tool set to allocate system safety requirements via the systems engineering process. Hazard analysis, a principal tool used by safety engineers, is an important first step for identifying and documenting hazards in the system safety process. Other more sophisticated tools such as fault tree analyses complement the basic tools. The goal of system safety is to enable programs to achieve the optimum level of safety commensurate with the cost, schedule, and technical performance criteria for the system under development or upgrade. The system safety practices are compatible with traditional system development and have found application in compliance-based functional disciplines within the Department.

Two examples in which DoD has applied the system safety process include the DoD 5000.69-M Joint Services Weapon Safety Review (JSWSR) Process and the DoD Air Combat Damage Reporting (ACDR) process.

The recent publication of DoD 5000.69-M completes the development of a collaborative weapon safety review process involving the weapon system safety communities from the Military Departments (MILDEP). USSOCOM cosponsored this effort to enhance the weapon and laser system safety processes within the MILDEPs. The initial step was to codify the policy to mandate that when two or more Services or Defense Agencies plan to use a weapon or laser system, they must execute a collaborative safety review. This requirement is documented in DoDI 5000.69, DoD Joint Services Weapon and Laser System Safety Review Processes. A team of Services’ technical representatives are developing and documenting a comparable joint laser system safety review process, which is planned to be completed in late 2014.

The ACDR process was developed by a DoD technical team at the request of USD(AT&L) to provide a common, consistent process for collecting combat damage data across combat aircraft. This process is intended to enhance survivability, reduce casualties, and increase operational readiness. The process uses overarching guidance from USD(AT&L) to minimize any reporting burden on operating forces, protect submitted data, and validate and refine the data collection scheme before Department-wide implementation. DoD has piloted the process in conjunction with USCENTCOM. USD(AT&L) has instituted the policy within DoDI 5000.02, and guidance is pending release in the Defense Acquisition Guidebook (DAG), Chapter 9.

System safety integrates with other specialty engineering fields (reliability and maintainability engineering, quality, manufacturing, producibility, and human systems integration) to ensure programs employ a comprehensive systems engineering approach.