Safety Cases & Safety Reports

Averting disaster: an intro to the world of safety engineering

Safety Cases and Safety Reports

Safety Cases and Safety Reports: Meaning, Motivation and Management
By Richard Maguire
Ashgate Publishing Limited
ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-4649-5
ISBN-10: 0-7546-4649-1
$99.95 (hard cover)
171 Pages

Reviewed by Rick Faulkner

Safety engineering may seem like a somewhat tedious profession to some people, but that sentiment should change to gratitude when they realize that safety engineers save lives through their training and planning techniques.

Clearly, though, safety case management and safety reports aren't the sexiest of topics. But at least this book, aptly named Safety Cases and Safety Reports, is written in a clear manner aimed at managers of large corporations or organizations such as the military.

The author, Richard Maguire, is a professional engineer who works for a safety think-tank called SE Validation Ltd. in Salisbury, England. He isn't just a pencil-pusher, though; he conducts safety analyses for a living and obviously knows what he is talking about. And, fortunately, Maguire isn't trying to convey this process from any particular perspective - he offers just the facts, ma'am.

With its focus on safety professional jargon, its emphasis on benchmarking and its role in elucidating processes and examples for readers, Safety Cases and Safety Reports basically breaks down as equal parts dictionary, yardstick and teacher.

The book starts off with a clear delineation of safety cases from safety reports:

  • The intention of a safety case is to propose a system that is safe for all people, machinery and even the environment. (In the United Kingdom, large companies must present a safety case before they start a new project, an excellent lesson that North Americans could benefit from following.)
  • A safety report is the entire body of evidence, as gathered by safety engineers, that proves what transpired in an accident. (These reports can be extremely simple or a labyrinth of complexity, and they too often lay blame, according to the author.)

Maguire explains a myriad of terms throughout the book, including:

  • Human reliability analysis: The process of identifying the probability of human error.
  • Measurement scale: A benchmark for risk - applying to both safety boundary scales and events.

These terms are not specific to any industry, time frame or personnel, and are fortunately explained in the context of the entire safety management process.

Processes and jargon coming to you soon from across the pond

You can expect "human reliability analysis" and other such jargon to come to America from across the pond in the near future, taking the same path of migration as did ISO (standards for professional efficiency and environmental compliance set by the International Organization for Standardization), Technical Specification (TS) and Quality Standards (QS).

But, hey, if it works, why not copy the British model? And clearly, safety case management process and policy works; the United Kingdom has a workplace fatality rate of 0.6 per 100,000 workers, compared to America's 4.1 per 100,000 workers who die on the job.

If you are already a safety professional, this book will be a wonderful refresher. The rest of you will find a tremendously wide introduction to the world of analytics and meticulous recordkeeping around safety at work.

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