is the state of being "safe" (from French
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...
), the condition of being protected against physical, social, spiritual, financial, political, emotional, occupational, psychological, educational or other types or consequences of failure, damage, error
The word error entails different meanings and usages relative to how it is conceptually applied. The concrete meaning of the Latin word "error" is "wandering" or "straying". Unlike an illusion, an error or a mistake can sometimes be dispelled through knowledge...
An accident or mishap is an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance, often with lack of intention or necessity. It implies a generally negative outcome which may have been avoided or prevented had circumstances leading up to the accident been recognized, and acted upon, prior to its...
HARM or H.A.R.M. may refer to:* AGM-88 HARM, a high-speed anti-radiation missile* Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum, a museum in Creve Coeur, Missouri, United States...
or any other event which could be considered non-desirable. Safety can also be defined to be the control of recognized hazards to achieve an acceptable level of risk. This can take the form of being protected from the event or from exposure to something that causes health or economical losses. It can include protection of people or of possessions.
There are two slightly different meanings of safety
. For example, home safety
may indicate a building's ability to protect against external harm events (such as weather, home invasion, etc.), or may indicate that its internal installations (such as appliances, stairs, etc.) are safe (not dangerous or harmful) for its inhabitants.
Discussions of safety often include mention of related terms. Security is such a term. With time the definitions between these two have often become interchanged, equated, and frequently appear juxtaposed in the same sentence. Readers unfortunately are left to conclude whether they comprise a redundancy. This confuses the uniqueness that should be reserved for each by itself. When seen as unique, as we intend here, each term will assume its rightful place in influencing and being influenced by the other.
Safety is the condition of a “steady state” of an organization or place doing what it is supposed to do. “What it is supposed to do” is defined in terms of public codes and standards, associated architectural and engineering designs, corporate vision and mission statements, and operational plans and personnel policies. For any organization, place, or function, large or small, safety is a normative concept. It complies with situation-specific definitions of what is expected and acceptable.
Using this definition, protection from a home’s external threats and protection from its internal structural and equipment failures (see Meanings, above) are not two types of safety but rather two aspects of a home’s steady state.
In the world of everyday affairs, not all goes as planned. Some entity’s steady state is challenged. This is where security science, which is of more recent date, enters. Drawing from the definition of safety, then:
Security is the process or means, physical or human, of delaying, preventing, and otherwise protecting against external or internal, defects, dangers, loss, criminals, and other individuals or actions that threaten, hinder or destroy an organization’s “steady state,” and deprive it of its intended purpose for being.
Using this generic definition of safety it is possible to specify the elements of a security program.
Safety can be limited in relation to some guarantee or a standard of insurance
In law and economics, insurance is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss. Insurance is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for payment. An insurer is a company selling the...
to the quality and unharmful function of an object or organization. It is used in order to ensure that the object or organization will do only what it is meant to do.
It is important to realize that safety is relative. Eliminating all risk
Risk is the potential that a chosen action or activity will lead to a loss . The notion implies that a choice having an influence on the outcome exists . Potential losses themselves may also be called "risks"...
, if even possible, would be extremely difficult and very expensive. A safe situation is one where risks of injury or property damage are low and manageable.
Types of safety
It is important to distinguish between products that meet standards, that are safe, and those that merely feel safe. The highway safety community uses these terms:
is a term used to describe products or designs that meet applicable design standards and protection.
, or objective safety means that the real-world safety history is favorable, whether or not standards are met.
, or subjective safety refers to the level of comfort of users. For example, traffic signals
Traffic lights, which may also be known as stoplights, traffic lamps, traffic signals, signal lights, robots or semaphore, are signalling devices positioned at road intersections, pedestrian crossings and other locations to control competing flows of traffic...
are perceived as safe, yet under some circumstances, they can increase traffic crashes
A traffic collision, also known as a traffic accident, motor vehicle collision, motor vehicle accident, car accident, automobile accident, Road Traffic Collision or car crash, occurs when a vehicle collides with another vehicle, pedestrian, animal, road debris, or other stationary obstruction,...
at an intersection. Traffic roundabout
A roundabout is the name for a road junction in which traffic moves in one direction around a central island. The word dates from the early 20th century. Roundabouts are common in many countries around the world...
s have a generally favorable safety record, yet often make drivers nervous.
Risks and responses
Safety is generally interpreted as implying a real and significant impact on risk of death, injury or damage to property. In response to perceived risks many interventions may be proposed with engineering responses and regulation being two of the most common.
Probably the most common individual response to perceived safety issues is insurance, which compensates for or provides restitution in the case of damage or loss.
System safety and reliability engineering
The system safety concept calls for a risk management strategy based on identification, analysis of hazards and application of remedial controls using a systems-based approach...
and reliability engineering
Reliability engineering is an engineering field, that deals with the study, evaluation, and life-cycle management of reliability: the ability of a system or component to perform its required functions under stated conditions for a specified period of time. It is often measured as a probability of...
is an engineering discipline. Continuous changes in technology, environmental regulation and public safety concerns make the analysis of complex safety-critical systems more and more demanding.
A common fallacy, for example among electrical engineers regarding structure power systems, is that safety issues can be readily deduced. In fact, safety issues have been discovered one by one, over more than a century in the case mentioned, in the work of many thousands of practitioners, and cannot be deduced by a single individual over a few decades. A knowledge of the literature, the standards and custom in a field is a critical part of safety engineering. A combination of theory and track record of practices is involved, and track record indicates some of the areas of theory that are relevant. (In the USA, persons with a state license in Professional Engineering in Electrical Engineering are expected to be competent in this regard, the foregoing notwithstanding, but most electrical engineers have no need of the license for their work.)
Safety is often seen as one of a group of related disciplines: quality, reliability, availability, maintainability and safety. (Availability is sometimes not mentioned, on the principle that it is a simple function of reliability and maintainability.) These issues tend to determine the value of any work, and deficits in any of these areas are considered to result in a cost, beyond the cost of addressing the area in the first place; good management is then expected to minimize total cost.
are activities and precautions taken to improve safety, i.e. reduce risk related to human health. Common safety measures include:
- Root cause analysis
Root cause analysis is a class of problem solving methods aimed at identifying the root causes of problems or events.Root Cause Analysis is any structured approach to identifying the factors that resulted in the nature, the magnitude, the location, and the timing of the harmful outcomes of one...
to identify causes of a system failure and correct deficiencies.
- Visual examination for dangerous situations such as emergency exits blocked because they are being used as storage areas.
- Visual examination for flaws such as cracks, peeling, loose connections.
- Chemical analysis
- X-ray analysis to see inside a sealed object such as a weld, a cement wall or an airplane outer skin.
- Destructive testing
In destructive testing, tests are carried out to the specimen's failure, in order to understand a specimen's structural performance or material behaviour under different loads...
- Stress testing
Stress testing is a form of testing that is used to determine the stability of a given system or entity. It involves testing beyond normal operational capacity, often to a breaking point, in order to observe the results...
subjects a person or product to stresses in excess of those the person or product is designed to handle, to determining the "breaking point".
- Safety margins/Safety factors. For instance, a product rated to never be required to handle more than 200 pounds might be designed to fail under at least 400 pounds, a safety factor of two. Higher numbers are used in more sensitive applications such as medical or transit safety.
- Implementation of standard protocols and procedures so that activities are conducted in a known way.
The term training refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. It forms the core of apprenticeships and provides the backbone of content at institutes of...
of employees, vendors, product users
- Instruction manuals explaining how to use a product or perform an activity
- Instructional videos demonstrating proper use of products
- Examination of activities by specialists to minimize physical stress or increase productivity
- Government regulation so suppliers know what standards their product is expected to meet.
- Industry regulation
Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...
so suppliers know what level of quality is expected. Industry regulation is often imposed to avoid potential government regulation.
- Self-imposed regulation of various types.
- Statements of Ethics by industry organizations or an individual company so its employees know what is expected of them.
- Drug test
A drug test is a technical analysis of a biological specimen – for example urine, hair, blood, sweat, or oral fluid / saliva – to determine the presence or absence of specified parent drugs or their metabolites...
ing of employees, etc.
- Physical examination
Physical examination or clinical examination is the process by which a doctor investigates the body of a patient for signs of disease. It generally follows the taking of the medical history — an account of the symptoms as experienced by the patient...
s to determine whether a person has a physical condition that would create a problem.
- Periodic evaluations of employees, departments, etc.
- Geological surveys to determine whether land or water sources are polluted, how firm the ground is at a potential building site, etc.
A number of standards organizations
exist that promulgate safety standards. These may be voluntary organizations or government agencies.
American National Standards Institute
A major American standards organization
A standards organization, standards body, standards developing organization , or standards setting organization is any organization whose primary activities are developing, coordinating, promulgating, revising, amending, reissuing, interpreting, or otherwise producing technical standards that are...
is the American National Standards Institute
The American National Standards Institute is a private non-profit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel in the United States. The organization also coordinates U.S. standards with international...
(ANSI). Usually, members of a particular industry will voluntarily form a committee to study safety issues and propose standards. Those standards are then recommended to ANSI, which reviews and adopts them. Many government regulations require that products sold or used must comply with a particular ANSI standard.
Product safety testing, for the United States, is largely controlled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In addition, workplace related products come under the jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. It was created by Congress of the United States under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, signed by President Richard M. Nixon, on December 29, 1970...
(OSHA), which certifies independent testing companies as Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL), see http://www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/nrtl
Many government agencies set safety standards for matters under their jurisdiction, such as:
- the Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...
- the Consumer Product Safety Commission
- the United States Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress...
- British Standards Institution
- Canadian Standards Association
The Canadian Standards Association, also known as the CSA, is a not-for-profit Standards organization with the stated aim of developing standards for use in 57 different areas of specialisation...
- Deutsches Institut für Normung
is the German national organization for standardization and is that country's ISO member body. DIN is a Registered German Association headquartered in Berlin...
- International Organization for Standardization
The International Organization for Standardization , widely known as ISO, is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations. Founded on February 23, 1947, the organization promulgates worldwide proprietary, industrial and commercial...
Many countries have national organizations that have accreditation to test and/or submit test reports for safety certification. These are typically referred to as a Notified or Competent Body.