veryard projects - innovation for demanding change


veryard projects > risk > safety
we offer the essence of safety material

management briefings

independent advice on tools and methods

Real Safety
Imaginary Safety
Symbolic Safety
Safety Critical

Safety and Risk-Taking

UK Rail Maintenance - Issues of Safety and Trust



veryard projects - innovation for demanding change


veryard projects > risk > safety > critical

In systems engineering and requirements engineering, there is a considerable body of work known as "safety-critical".

The demand for safety means we want to trust a system or artefact. The system or artefact delivers a safe commodity. Safety is itself a technological commodity. The demand for safety implies a demand for some form of commodity trust.

However, a complex system or artefact is generally produced by a contractual network of engineering activity. Therefore the trust actually on offer is a form of network trust.

However, many people make a fetish of a so-called safety-critical engineering process. This generates the illusion of authority trust - based on the supposedly canonical authority of mathematical proof.
more Trust

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change

Safety and Risk-Taking

veryard projects > risk > safety > risk-taking

Trust in a system or artefact or collaboration (justified or otherwise)
leads to a perception / feeling of safety and security (justified or otherwise)
leads to risk-taking behaviour
leads to reduced safety and trust.

This pattern is sometimes known as risk equalization - the idea that risk is adjusted homeostatically to maintain a constant level of risk. For example, it is said that drivers with seatbelts and airbags simply drive more recklessly, so that the total risk remains the same.

But this pattern overlooks some of the second-order effects of learning. Risk-taking may reduce safety in the short term, but may increase safety in the longer term.  For example, the dilemma every responsible parent faces - when to allow your children to venture out alone. If you keep them indoors until they are adults, they will never become street-wise. Sometimes it is necessary to trust your children to manage some level of risk for themselves.

veryard projects - innovation for demanding change veryard projects > risk > safety
Page last updated November 17th, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Veryard Projects Ltd