This is the first in a series of blogs that will describe how organizations can build functional safety capabilities within. 

I have been very fortunate in my career to have operated in multiple leadership roles that have provided much perspective on organizations, both large and small. Moreover, I’ve led multiple engineering disciplines and have gained a solid understanding of the challenges that face automotive engineers. There are many aspects to building a safety culture in an organization, but in this blog, we will focus on the basic aspects. To get started let’s compare the definition of safety culture in part 1 from ISO-26262:2011 with ISO-26262:2018 FDIS.

  1. Here is the definition of safety culture taken from ISO-26262:2011:
    “Safety culture – policy and strategy used within an organization to support the development, production and operation of safety-related systems.”
  2. Here is the definition of safety culture taken from ISO-26262:2018 FDIS:
    “Safety culture – Enduring values, attitudes, motivations and knowledge of an organization in which safety is prioritized over competing goals in decisions and behavior.”

At a very high level, safety culture is comprised of tangible and intangible elements. The definition in ISO-26262:2011 focuses on the tangible aspects of safety culture (process/policy). Process and policy are the most easily understood aspects of safety culture, so it is logical that there is an inclination to highlight these elements in ISO-26262:2011, but the definition of safety culture in ISO-26262:2011 is incomplete. The definition in ISO-26262:2018 FDIS does a much better job capturing and describing the intangible aspects of safety culture (motivation and attitude). These intangibles are often more difficult to gauge in an organization and therefore can be the most challenging to develop. Nevertheless, negative attitudes towards functional safety can completely undermine the organization’s efforts to build a safety culture. The definition of safety culture is much improved in ISO-26262:2018 FDIS.

The ISO-26262:2018 FDIS also includes a reference in annex B of part 2 that should be highlighted. The reference to Safety series no. 75-INSAG-4 supports the safety culture definition in ISO-26262:2018 FDIS and it defines 2 basic components to safety culture:

  1. “The first is the necessary framework within an organization and is the responsibility of the management hierarchy.”
  2. “The second is the attitude of staff at all levels in responding to and benefiting from the framework.”

This supporting reference makes a clearer distinction between the tangible and intangible aspects to safety culture. The safety series document was written in 1991 but provides a short and complete summary of the key elements of safety culture that are still relevant today.

The next blog will take a closer look at the ‘recommendations and requirements’ of safety culture captured in ISO-26262:2018 FDIS and highlight differences with ISO-26262:2011.

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