Is functional safety assessment required in operation?

Functional Safety Assessment (FSA) has been a requirement in IEC 61511 - Safety Instrumented Systems for the process industry sector, since the first edition published back in 2003. An FSA is one of the clear activities required to claim compliance with the IEC 61511 standard. The stated objective is to ensure that functional safety and safety integrity are achieved.

However, in practice many organisations have viewed FSA as an activity to be completed when a new safety instrumented system (SIS) gets installed, and of course, that is absolutely correct. But what about existing, or "legacy" systems? The question is, would it even be beneficial to carry out an FSA on an SIS that has been installed for many years and possibly even pre-dates the IEC61511 standard?


Well, the latest edition of IEC61511 (edition 2, published in 2016) seems to make it clearer that FSA is not just a design phase activity, but also an ongoing operational requirement.

Notes in part 1 clause require the FSA scope to include

" giving consideration to relevant factors such as time in operation, number and scope of changes in operation ,proof test frequency"

(i.e. ACTUAL frequency of proof tests). Furthermore, a new clause in part 1: states

"A FSA shall also be carried out periodically during the operations and maintenance phase to ensure that maintenance and operation are being carried out according to the assumptions made during the design and that requirements within IEC61511 for safety management and verification are being met"

This at least partially answers the earlier question in this article about legacy systems and those SIS's in place that pre-date IEC61511.

There are many management and verification activities mandated in IEC 61511 that could help to reduce systematic errors and improve safety, and the FSA should be just the mechanism for highlighting the gaps.

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About the author

Jon Keswick, CFSE

Jon Keswick is the Founder of eFunctionalSafety and author of the IChemE accredited "SIS Foundation" online training course.