Last month the nation and indeed, the world, witnessed the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, ending an extraordinary life of public service – the UK's longest-serving monarch and one of the longest ever reigns in global history.
Her life covered almost a century of national and global affairs, spanning 15 prime ministers, and it’s remarkable to think that while she leaves us now in a society where we have the beginnings of routine space flight, quantum computing and autonomous vehicles, she was born in an era before the electronic television was invented and decades before systems safety was, in any shape, formalised.
Her husband Prince Philip also enjoyed a long life, living to 99, but this might not have been the case when, aged 37, he came perilously close to a life-threating hazard – the like of which we now try so diligently to avoid.
In 1958, he boarded an RAF Sikorsky Whirlwind helicopter travelling the short distance to RAF Patrington across the Humber Estuary. Mid-flight, the co-pilot spotted that the safety wire on the sliding cockpit window had snapped, and the window was moments away from coming off altogether and colliding with the helicopter’s tail rotor, with possibly catastrophic results.
The co-pilot acted quickly by grabbing onto the window by bracing – and damaging – his knee to keep it in place as he battled against the aerodynamic forces. By now, over the Humber Estuary, and with no chance to land quickly, there was no choice but to carry on. In considerable discomfort, and with hands numb from the windchill, the co-pilot managed to keep hold as the helicopter made its way to safety.
In a sense this seems an apt metaphor for safety engineering in general. Sometimes we need to hold on doggedly to our safety assessments, designs, mitigations and indeed principles; even when this might be uncomfortable – both at an enterprise and personal level – but hold on we must; even till our hands are numb to avoid the murky waters of disaster that lie below.
In this edition of the newsletter there are three great feature articles, event reports from the “Managing Unexpected Events” and “The Future of Coding” SCSC seminars, an update from the Safety Futures Initiative and the “How do I get into Safety” series returns with insights from a few more members of the steering committee. Our 60 second interview is with Les Hatton who will be the after-dinner speaker at SSS’23.
It also gives me great pleasure to introduce some new features; we now have a “Recent Publications” section where new publications from the SCSC and other relevant sources will be listed and with thanks to Dewi Daniels we have our first ever book review!
To add in some of the fun that we enjoyed with the quiz at SSS’22, I am now including a System Safety crossword into the newsletter; so please try your hand at the questions! All correct answers received by the end of the year will be entered in the hat to win a £50 Amazon Voucher!
Paul Hampton SCSC Newsletter Editor