With life largely getting back to normal in most parts of the UK, there does seem a perception that Covid-19 is behind us, or at least, there are other more pressing concerns to occupy our thoughts such as increasing fuel and living costs and, of course, the situation in Ukraine. While it is debatable whether Covid-19 is completely over, at least during the last two years we felt we could make a difference and contributed efforts in applying systems thinking to the problem, especially through the good work of the SCSC Covid-19 Working Group.
The current crisis in Ukraine is clearly having a global impact and represents our next biggest challenge; but in the chaos of war, it seems harder to apply systems thinking when the parties involved have such conflicting objectives. As reported in the news, the IAEA said ‘nuclear safety has been seriously jeopardised’ and one wonders how any safety case meets its claims in war time.
A serious concern arising from heightened political tensions is the accidental use of weapons, which could escalate into full-scale war, and these sorts of concerns are really where formal approaches to system safety began in the 1960’s with the Minuteman Ballistic Missiles. I’d recommend reading the SCSC Newsletter article by John Ridgway ‘On the Safest Way to Kill’ (Volume 27 No. 1); John concluded that accidental detonation still presents the greatest existential threat to mankind. The recent accidental launch of a missile between India and Pakistan due to a “technical malfunction” is particularly sobering.
The SCSC celebrated its 30th anniversary and the annual Symposium held in February reflected on the huge achievements and contributions the club has made over that time. It also looked to the future and the challenges that lie ahead, and the need for systems thinking and safety engineering has never been more important. Autonomous Vehicles represents one of the major future challenges and in our first article, Roger Rivett discusses the challenges of self-driving cars and proposes ways to progress toward making this technology a reality on our roads. As well as technological disrupters, there have been some major changes politically in the exit of the UK from the European Union. Dai Davis discusses some of the implications that this has had on product liability.
There then follows a number of event reports starting with a report of the SSS’22 symposium, including summaries of all the key note speeches, and I have pleasure in being able to provide the transcripts from Tim Kelly’s ‘thought for the symposium’ that concluded the event and Wendy Owen’s pre-dinner talk. Michael Wright provides a report of the seminar ‘Accident Investigation and Safety Culture’ run by the Safety Culture Working Group. There is also a report from Dewi Daniels on the club’s very first Technical Trip to Bletchley Park. This was a day trip, open to all, to the once top-secret home of the World War Two Code-breakers and is intended to be the first of many such visits to interesting locations like this.
Our 60 second interview is with Zoe Garstang – SCSC Steering Group member and lead for the Safety Futures Initiative.
Paul Hampton SCSC Newsletter Editor