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Functional safety standard IEC 61511 revised

Independent professional community Safety Users Group has conducted a round table discussion with members of the IEC 61511 standard committee to explore the maintenance of the functional safety standard and addresses common misconceptions.

Industrial safety trend-setters from Shell Europe and DuPont USA are joined by experts from the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Emerson Process Management and IEC 61511 Committee Chairman Victor Maggioli share their practical experience of the standard and its adoption in the chemical process, oil refining, tank storage and offshore industries in a series of free online videos.

Didier Turcinovic, Safety Users Group commented: “The safety community needs to share knowledge and ideas and the involvement of end users such as Shell, manufacturers such as Emerson Process Management and functional safety experts is essential to develop standards like IEC 61511 that meet their specific demands.”

The IEC 61511 standard was first published in 2004 in order to provide specific guidance on the application of the IEC 61508 functional safety framework in the process industry. Trends in sustainable development, operational excellence (OP-EX) and quality control have driven growing interest in the standard.

In recent years, the recommendations from the Texas City oil refinery and Buncefield oil storage and transfer depot incident reports have accelerated the adoption of IEC 61511 to a point where it is widely accepted as the state of the art.

IEC 61511 acceptance and adoption varies around the World, but in the UK the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regards it as close to law. The HSE’s IEC 61511 committee member Simon Brown, explained: “IEC 61511 is becoming well accepted as the standard of good practice for safety instruments systems in the process sector. It’s certainly not a legal requirement in itself, but the requirement to implement good practice is a legal requirement.”

The 2007 Frost and Sullivan report “World Safety Systems Markets for Process Industries” stated that the safety systems market represented $1 billion in 2006 and was expected to double by the year 2013. However, despite the boom in safety programmable systems and growing awareness within industry, the IEC 61511 standard is still misinterpreted whilst knowledge and competence gradually diffuses throughout international networks and supply chains.

IEC 61511 is currently under maintenance and the committee is working towards international acceptance on a number of important points that will be addressed in the revised standard. Key topics explored in the roundtable discussion include the effect of the revised IEC 61508 standard on its 61511 derivative, the clarification of “prior in use”, as well as specific parts such as Hardware Fault Tolerance (HFT), the Safety Manual, Clause 12, SIL 4 and PFD Calculations.

A new revision of the IEC 61508 “umbrella standard” is imminent which will have an immediate effect on the current IEC 61511 and its future revision.

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