Competence Guidelines

Safety-Related System Competence Guidelines
​The crucial component in the management of functional safety is the competence of all those with a role to play throughout the safety system and software lifecycle.

Clause 6 of IEC 61508-1 specifies the requirements for the management of functional safety including reference to the need for those involved in any part of the safety related system / software lifecycle to have the necessary competence relevant to the specific duties that they have to perform. These requirements have triggered a number of organisation to produce competence guidelines. These competence management procedures must also cover the refreshing, updating and continued assessment of competence. Clause 6 also lists relevant factors to consider in relation to competence.

In short competence is an essential aspect that must be considered for functional safety. This does not mean that everyone involved needs to be a functional safety “expert”, it means they must be competent to perform the tasks they have been assigned (e.g., install a pressure transmitter).

The UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidance on the management of competence for people responsible for safety related systems. Managing competence for safety-related systems was issued by the HSE, the Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) and the British Computer Society (BCS) in two parts:

Part 1: Key guidance

Part 2: Supplementary material

To complement the general guidance, the IET in conjunction with HSE and BCS has revised the guidelines on job related competencies for those working on safety-related systems. Competence criteria for Safety-related system practitioners can be purchased from

Many people find the procedures for setting up, operating and maintaining a competence management system for safety related systems daunting and challenging (don’t worry! you are not alone!), especially after reading this guidance. We recommend seeking competent guidance to help you through the process.

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61508 safety standard


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