Safety Engineering in Focus After Worrying Failures

When the United Kingdom famously opted to exit from the European Union this year, what was the dominant feeling among them? The question sounds like the unanswerable million dollar question at the end of a trivia show. The answer is: uncertainty. They felt that the country had isolated itself from the rest of the world and that engineering endeavor and business was going to be wrapped up in...uncertainty. Engineers are in an era of uncertainty. The world wants new, shiny, efficient things from engineers. And it breeds uncertainty. What are those things, you ask? Society demands more efficient transport, more power production, safer energy exploration, less waste, smarter products, self-driving cars, more impressive entertainment technology, and on top of this, they want it all to be safe and reliable. 

This is where engineering in safety, predictability, and risk comes in. Safety engineers are one of the most sought after kinds of engineers because they attempt to shield the general public from the risk attached to engineering endeavor and innovation. Engineers ensure that the systems they build are the safest and most reliable systems they can possibly design. In key engineering industries, risk-related procedures must be followed to ensure that the highest level of performance is possible. And when failures occur, it is the safety engineer's responsibility to figure out the ‘why’ and ‘how’ the failures happen, and adjust their systems’ safety accordingly. In their book, ‘Reliability and Safety Engineering’, Ak. Srividya and Durga Rao, say: “Reliability deals with the failure concept, whereas safety deals with the consequences of failure.

What are the consequences of failure? Well, sometimes it is the worst possible result; death. The Dreamworld theme park in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, has seen the result of an engineering failure. The Thunder River Rapids ride saw a malfunction that caused the colliding of two of the ride’s rafts, positioned on the conveyor belt. Four people lost their lives after being ‘ejected’ from the ride after the raft was flipped over due to the collision. The Australian Workers Union had reportedly approached the theme park’s operators, Ardent Leisure, and the Queensland safety regulators to bring the park’s safety and operation of equipment into question back in April 2015. 

Safety, predictability, and reliability
of theme park rides are something automation and control engineers will be making a lot of money out of in the entertainment industry in years to come. A report by Global Industry Analysts predict that theme park revenue, in the United States alone, will reach $44 billion by 2020. Safety PLCs are usually used to automate theme park rides, and will continue to be engineered within the parameters of reliability and will ensure engineers can respond to failure quickly with a fail-safe mechanism. Continuous operation of theme parks means more maintenance being necessary - this is where safety engineers are needed. 

Safety, reliability, and predictability of engineering systems have never been more important in a world that will be seeing driverless cars in the future. The question is - can we engineer something that controls a car in a safer way than humans do? Globally 1.2 million people die in car accidents every year. As a result, we have seen companies like Google, Tesla Motors and others; begin to engineer hardware that drives the car for you. But is it safe? Missy Cummings, the director of a robotics focused lab named the Human and Autonomy Lab at Duke University predicted a year of challenges for self-driving in March 2016. She said: “There is no question someone is going to die in this technology. The question is when, and what we can do to minimize that.” The self-driving car has changed the world of traditional safety engineering and presented it with new and unique challenges.

Chris Urmson who was attached to Google’s self-driving car project in March said that self-driving technology is safe. He said that Google’s driverless cars had done 1.4 million miles of driverless driving; the equivalent of 108 years on the road. Urmson has since departed from Google but professed that Google’s fleet was safe and ready for public deployment. 

Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors will be equipping every car that comes off of their assembly line with new hardware that allows the car to operate itself. In the near future, you could have a fully autonomous car sitting in your garage. It has been, very much, trial and error with Tesla and self-driving hardware. In June, Tesla’s software was criticized when their Autopilot Technology Package failed to spot a trailer sprawled across a freeway in a customer’s Tesla Model S. The software reportedly was not able to discern that the trailer was in front of it because of its white color. The car slammed into the trailer and the driver unfortunately died. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration opened an investigation. The safety engineers, presumably, had to go back to the drawing board. 

However, they are back and Tesla now has full autonomy hardware named the ‘Drive Me’ program, using the Nvidia Drive PX 2 computing platform. The company has now set a safety goal, to not have any serious injury or death in their new fully autonomous cars by 2020. 

The Engineering Institute of Technology is hosting the Master of Engineering in Safety, Risk, and Reliability. Through online interactive training, the next generation of safety engineers will bring their knowledge to industries that require system safety in the early stages of projects to the operation of those projects. The course covers key safety modules including: 

Safety Systems and Risk Management

Incident and Accident Investigation

Health, Safety and Environment Management

Human Factors Engineering 

Reliability Engineering 

And more

The Master's program will equip you with the necessary knowledge for reducing risk in key engineering industries. Through live webinars and interactive sessions, industry experts will train the new realm of safety engineers. The next automation, process and design engineers will be developing new engineering innovations that will need safety, risk and reliability engineering. Any uncertainty of new engineering innovation can be diminished. 

Below are a list of engineering programs that we at the Engineering Institute of Technology offer:

Please contact us for more information.