The original governing standard for complex system functional safety is BS EN 61508 and its full suite of supporting documents. This standard has been primarily written to guide the application of electrical, electronic and programmable electronic safety-based systems (abbreviated to E/E/PE within the standard) and the life cycle of how this automation is managed to ensure the safest possible application.
When it comes to the everyday routine, no one can deny that automating processes within our daily work lives dramatically improves productivity. It has been a technological development that has seen great strides in production and safety in almost every industry across the globe. The use of automation to carry out the basic processes primarily reduces the risk of human error with mundane, repetitive tasks.
When you look further into the safety benefits, you can see that by automating functions, you can limit operator and user exposure, to inherently dangerous processes and direct equipment control, by moving command and control to safer and centralised locations.
However, what if the equipment in question houses and supports the life of its operators and users? What if every aspect of your life relied upon these routine processes? Wouldn't you want these processes to become automated? It sounds like something of the future, but this is becoming far more commonplace within the modern dive support vessel (DSV).
In recent years, a number of reported undesired events have been attributed to the erroneous use or misunderstanding of automated functions within dive systems. During the review of these events, the primary causes have typically NOT been attributed to the failure of the equipment, but actually in a failure of how the automated functions have been managed.
As part of the management step, it is ultimately the responsibility of the diving contractor to ensure that they meet the various expectations of safety with each automated function. The company will typically have (but certainly not be limited to) the following:
- Company-specific policy for life-critical automation management (this will typically differ from other forms of automation policies).
- Management procedures for normal, emergency and maintenance modes (including modes for bypass, testing, etc.).
- Maintenance planning, including the management of component obsolescence as technology advances.
- Various registers to allow for reference by unfamiliar parties to the specific system automated functions and BS EN 61508 supporting documentation.
- Proof testing procedures and results, including details on percentage cover of the system functionality.
- Various other details such as periodic testing, obsolescence, cyber security, software version management, managing technical changes, etc.
Namaka Subsea is positioned to support not only in the auditing and assurance of these automated systems in line with the standards, various industry guidance and company procedures, but we also have the ability to support our clients in achieving functional safety compliance and its management throughout the dive system lifespan.
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