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System Safety Engineering Class

Software allows unprecedented levels of complexity and new failure modes that are starting to overwhelm the standard approaches to ensuring safety. The causes of accidents are even changing. This class will cover fundamental concepts and techniques in building and ensuring safety, with particular emphasis on those aspects of complex systems not handled well by traditional system safety approaches, such as software and human-computer interaction. While traditional system safety will be covered, new and unique approaches to hazard analysis, root cause analysis, and risk management will be included.

Emphasis will be on procedures and techniques that are practical enough to be applied to projects today. Real project experiences with these techniques in different application areas will be described and recent software-related accidents will be reviewed and analyzed.

The goal of this class is not to learn how to satisfy a particular safety standard but rather how to design a tailored program that will be most effective for your project. The class size will be limited to encourage interaction. Students will work on example problems in small groups.

STPA: A New Approach to Hazard Analysis Class

Most of the common hazard analysis techniques used today date back to the 1950's and 1960's, with little change in the intervening years. These traditional approaches to hazard analysis are being overwhelmed by the increasing complexity of the systems we are building, by the introduction of digital technology and software, and by the increased reliance on distributed human-machine decision-making and control. In this class, we will teach a new approach to hazard analysis called STPA that allows handling much greater complexity and the new types of technology common today.  It also has the ability to consider the social and organizational ("safety culture") factors in accidents and incidents along with the technical.  STPA is being used successfully on complex systems today. The class will cover fundamental principles as well as examples and class exercises.


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