What can you gain from using safety life-cycle software?

Read on to see the software buyer's guide table...a comparison of 4 cloud-based software solutions. This blog will will look at the main reasons why using such software is better than many traditional approaches, which companies are working in the domain and the questions you should ask before you choose a solution.

The safety life-cycle was a term first used in IEC 61508 [1] to describe the different steps of activity required to develop an electrical/electronic or programmable electronic safety system. Today, that standard is mostly applied when an equipment manufacturer is developing a new safety-related product or system. A similar safety life-cycle was also framed by IEC 61511 [2]. This one is more applicable to a safety system projects where the equipment from different suppliers is put together to form an overall system used in a safety duty. This IEC 61511 safety life-cycle is the main context for the software being reviewed in this blog.

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Do you need specialist software to manage the safety life-cycle?

There is a very short answer to this question, no - you do not need it. The companies that work in this specialist sector will doubtless advise that you need their tools, but you would not be wrong to question this.

It is possible to manage without any specialist software and to get by with tools that are common in an office environment for producing documents, spreadsheets and drawings. If this is coupled with rigorous document control and document update, then you may not have any problems using a traditional approach. 

However...

The challenge is that most organizations are not good at constantly and consistently updating crucial safety information held in different 'dead file' documents.


Meeting the challenge 1 - some specialist software

As you look at typical deliverables for the safety life-cycle, there are clear phases of activity where you may have already selected and purchased some specialist tools which take you beyond what normal office tools can provide.

For example, there are specialist tools which have been around for some time for recording process hazard analysis (PHA or HAZOP) team findings. Depending on the selected tool, it might also be possible to extend use to studies like Safety Integrity Level (SIL) determination using risk graphs or layer of protection (LOPA). There are also specialist tools aimed at producing bow-tie diagrams, fault tree diagrams, failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA), fault trees and many other specialist safety-related tasks.

What is common to all non-cloud specialist tools is that they apply to a very specific job at a point in the life-cycle and their main output is a report. They may have aspects of a database and aspects of automation of some elements, but in most cases they produce a report which gets allocated a version number and each report becomes a "dead file" on a document management system. There is no mechanism for sharing the data in the dead file with other aspects of a project, and no intention of having the safety-related data actually "alive" for operations use.

For example, after a HAZOP, the subsequent documents which get produced later in the life-cycle might copy/paste information from the dead file report, but there is no active or live sharing of captured information as things progress in a project or get updated during operations.

Meeting the challenge 2 - a new way of doing things

It is not hugely surprising that with the advent of cloud computing some companies have risen to the challenge of offering something a little new and different. Instead of just producing dead files, the intent of such cloud-based safety life-cycle software is to embed the use of data in both the project AND operations processes.

Of course the idea of a database is not new, but the possibility of it being cloud-based brings a whole heap of potential benefits. Here are a few:

  1. A cloud database means that project collaboration in multi-discipline teams with people from different companies and locations becomes straightforward.
  2. With everyone accessing the system in data form, document version control becomes less of an issue provided the software solution supports tracking and the access rights are set up correctly.
  3. When you have moved out of the project phase and into normal operation, a database will represent the "real world" live view of the system, whereas dead files would need very careful review, update and version control.

These are just a few of the benefits that spring to mind. There are doubtless many others.

Where can you get cloud-based safety life-cycle software?

There are several suppliers who have sprung up from the consulting and engineering world to provide possible solutions. The table below provides a quick comparison overview of four software providers:

aeShield - aeSolutions Inc
exSILentia - exida.com LLC
SISSuite - HTS Engineering Group Ltd
SLM v2 - Mangan Software Solutions

Each company above was contacted individually and asked to provide their feedback on the current availability of more than 30 features which are useful for the safety life-cycle. Thanks to their direct feedback, the hope is that this table is a fair and accurate comparison of claimed features at the date of this blog -  September 2018.  Software can be a fast moving thing, so please be warned if reading this at a much later time.

Key to the table icons:

  • Feature available.
  • Contact the software provider - feature may be limited or achieved in some other way.

NOTE: This table may appear difficult to read in mobile view. To request a PDF copy, scroll down the page and submit your name and email for the "buyer's guide".

Feature / SOFTWARE TOOL

Functional safety management / planning

Functional safety assessment protocol / checklist

Functional safety assessment action tracking

Automatic version control

Project document appending or linking

Project action tracking

Competency control by lifecycle task

PHA / HAZOP

Calibrated Risk Graph

LOPA

PHA/LOPA action/gap tracking & analysis

Bow Tie Analysis

Cyber risk assessment

SIL Determination

Safety requirements specification - Hardware

Safety requirements specification - Software

Process safety time evaluation

Cause and effects generation

IPL datasheet management

PFD calculation (low demand)

PFH calculation (high demand)

Failure rate data for equipment

Pre-built SIF templates

Prior use evaluation

System tag database management - tag based database

Proof test procedures

Bypass/Override risk analysis

Failure and event recording

Health meters / Key Performance Indicators

Management of Change

Lifecycle cost calculation

Enterprise integration / interfacing to CMMS/ERP

TABLE FOOTNOTE: There are probably some important features missing from this table which one or more of the above software providers would regard as important. A future blog may look at going deeper, so please add your name or simply comment at the end if you are interested in further detail.

Caveat emptor - Buyer beware

So far in this blog, I have sung the praises of potentially employing a safety life-cycle cloud-based software solution. Being an independent consultant, who often has to complete independent project assessments,  I do not endorse any specific solution.

As always, you should not rely solely on a limited comparison for your information before a purchase. Do your own research to contact the companies concerned if you are interested in more detail on features, limitations, prices etc.

Many questions do need to be asked. Other than the all important pricing options, most questions relate to the detail around possible limitations of the listed features. It is quite difficult in practice to compare like-for-like just by looking at a feature table like the one above. 

If you are interested in receiving the above table as a printable PDF file AND getting access to the detailed questions I would personally ask, then please submit your details directly below and click the green button. We will contact you by email soon with a "Safety Life-cycle Software Buyers Guide".

Please comment


If you are interested in more articles and more detail on the subject of safety life-cycle software then please be sure to comment below...

just a YES is enough.


Jon Keswick, CFSE

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

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