Some books on (not only Functional) Safety

Functional Safety

Now many of us have more spare time than usual. That may be an excellent opportunity to read up on things. In this post I will present a reading list on the topic of Functional Safety, which is my occupation and my field of study since 10 years already.

The term “functional safety” first appeared on engineers’ professional radars in 1998, when the general standard (or, as Germans call it in more romantic way, the “mother-norm”) IEC 61508 was published. Since then, a new branch of engineering thrives. There are people who call themselves Functional Safety Engineers (or Managers, or Experts). Most of them did not graduate from a “safety engineering” program of a college or a university. Companies take system engineers (who also very often have no specialized degree), electrical engineers or software people and make safety engineers out of them on the spot. This is a contributor to the fact that most of the functional safety knowledge is transmitted via either one-to-one cooperation and mentorship, or using documents which seem important enough for managers, i.e. international standards. There is a whole lot of those standards, with announcements of new ones coming out almost daily (especially in the field of autonomous driving/ADAS).

The current process of safety engineers’ preparation makes people fit for everyday tasks and the tasks that may follow. However, it does not give a broader view of the safety engineering as a single field, and its relations to the challenges of all industries, rather than to one challenge of a particular industry. This goal may be achieved by reading books, not standards. Below I give a (severely incomplete) list of books which I found useful in developing my outlook on things related to safety.

Engineering a Safer World by MIT Professor Dr. Nancy Leveson is a perfect introduction into a safety engineering. I would recommend it to all engineers and engineering students, if not to everyone. You don’t need to know engineering or math to appreciate this book. In addition, it makes a very good reading.

Functional Safety for Road Vehicles by Hans-Leo Ross is a standard Springer-style textbook. Once you master this book, you are ready to apply for positions like Functional Safety Manager or System Engineer with broad knowledge of ISO 26262. What makes it unlike other textbooks is quite a long chapter titled “Why functional safety?” You may use this chapter to talk to your managers when they are reluctant to hire another safety manager or accept proper processes for safety-related development. Alternatively, it is a good answer for your kids asking you what you are doing at work. The book also includes chapters on electromobility and AD/ADAS systems. Being published in 2016, it does not have information on novel concepts like SOTIF, but this can change in further editions.

A recent book Automotive Systems Safety. Critical Considerations for Engineering and Effective Management by Joseph D. Miller gives you a lot of practical information on how to do functional safety and good practices in the organisation of a functional safety department of a big company. Long-time chief engineer for safety, one of the founders of the US Technical Advisory Group for the ISO committee in charge of ISO 26262, and my mentor – all this makes the book by Joe Miller especially appealing to me.

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