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Managing competence for safety-related systems

Consultation for guidance published by HSE, the IEE and BCS

A partnership of HSE, the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) and the British Computer Society (BCS), has published draft guidance for consultation on how to manage competence for safety-related systems. We are now actively seeking your comments on this draft.

The document’s intended audience is all staff within companies and organisations who have responsibility for creating and operating a competence management system for the functional safety of safety-related systems.

When fully published, HSE inspectors will take into account the principles of this document when judging the adequacy of a duty holder’s arrangements for managing competence for safety-related systems.

The term “safety-related system” (as limited by the scope of the document) denotes a combination of hardware, electronics, software and people that together operates in response to its inputs to ensure safety. To be more precise, the guidance is concerned with the functional safety of electric/electronic/programmable electronic (E/E/PE) safety-related systems.  For general details on this topic, see the IEE functional safety professional network.

Successful specification, design, construction, installation, operation and maintenance of safety-related systems critically depends on peoples’ competence.  Companies and organisations have a legal duty to ensure that every activity that affects safety, for which they are responsible, is carried out by people who are in fact competent.

The guidance aims to:

The guidance takes the form of principles (for example develop competence standards, select staff, allocate responsibilities, assess competence, develop competence, manage sub-contractors).  The document defines each principle and describes it in more detail, with guidance on its application and some links to further information.

Although the document is limited in scope to functional safety of E/E/PE safety-related systems, and all the examples and discussion will be in this context, it will explicitly recognise that the principles set out are relevant for many other applications.  The principles and their description (though not necessarily the examples) will be written so as to be readily understandable by people who have no expertise in E/E/PE safety-related systems.

If any of your staff have responsibilities for E/E/PE safety-related systems then the document will be relevant to you.  We want to consult as widely as possible to ensure that the guidance is of value and meets the requirements of all those affected. Further details are given in the foreword of the document.

Comments should be sent by 28 February 2006 to:

Mark Bowell
Health and Safety Executive
Magdalen House
Trinity Road
L20 3QZ

Updated 2009-05-28