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Several safety standards exist for the construction, operation and management of systems requiring safety mechanisms. Most of the current standards have a lengthy history and continue to mature with changes in technology and society. It is important that systems safety professionals are at least aware of the major differences between various standards that they are likely to meet over the course of their careers.  The following (growing) list of safety standards are typical of what many safety professionals are likely to have to get to know.


The first listed item (SEBoK) is not a standard per se, but represents the most up to date information surrounding the systems engineering profession.  It is provided not only for interest but also as a notification of a serious endeavour to improve and better define all aspects of systems engineering activities - including safety.

Please note that most of the standards in the list below are not free (or low cost) to the individual.

October 26, 2016

Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBoK)

Systems engineering has its roots in the fundamentals, principles, and models of foundational systems sciences. It is applied through the application of systems engineering processes within a managed life cycle working with a number of other management, engineering, and specialist disciplines. While traditionally applied to product development, systems engineering can also be applied to service and enterprise systems. As systems engineering is a collaborative approach, working with other engineering and management disciplines and specialisms, it relies on enabling competencies and structures at individual, team, and organizational levels.

This is an ongoing effort with the involvement of NCOSE.  The latest version of SEBoK (SEBoK 1.7) is available in PDF form, but is a 30Mb download.

IEC 61508:2010 Functional Safety of Electrical/Electronic/Programmable Electronic Safety-related Systems.

IEC 61508 comprises 7 parts each of which can be purchased separately.

From the IEC website:  A brief on functional safety and 61508.

ISO 26262:2011 Functional Safety for Automotive Electronic/Electrical Systems

ISO 26262 comprises 10 parts and is an adaptation of the Functional Safety Standard IEC 61508.  It defines functional safety for automotive equipment applicable throughout the lifecycle of all automotive electronic and electrical safety-related systems.

See this overview of ISO 26262

MIL-STD-882E:2012 Department of Defense Standard Practice - Systems Safety

This system safety standard practice identifies the US DoD approach for identifying hazards and assessing and mitigating associated risks encountered in the development, test, production, use, and disposal of defense systems. 

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