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Safety Critical Systems

Computers are often placed in control situations within safety-critical systems. Safety is an emergent property of whole systems; software may play only a small part.

Course dates

5th June 2023Oxford University Department of Computer Science - Held in the Department15 places remaining.
17th June 2024Oxford University Department of Computer Science - Held in the Department17 places remaining.


The course will enable attendees to understand the specific issues, problems and techniques associated with analysis, design, development and verification of systems that will be used in safety critical applications. The course follows the complete life cycle of safety critical systems development, paying particular attention to systems that rely on software.


Safety Analysis
A range of safety analysis techniques are introduced including HAZOP, Failure Modes, Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA), Fault Tree Analysis. Ways of applying these to software intensive systems are discussed.
Architectural design
We consider architectural design of safety critical systems and the factors that lead to specific architectural decisions. The course includes a brief introduction to allied fields such as Reliability, Maintainability and System Support.
Developing Safety-Critical Systems
The course includes a variety of specific techniques for developing safety critical systems including formal testing, high-integrity programming (including the use of SPARK), software inspection and threads analysis.
European Standard
The course is covers the requirements of the European safety standard IEC 61508, and the UK defence standards 00-55 and 00-56. All of the techniques introduced are explained in terms of the program requirements of these standards.
Organisational aspects
Organisational aspects of safety critical systems projects are discussed as are the various human cognitive and social considerations that lead to errors and failures in systems development. The course includes ample case study material and short practical exercises in hazard identification and analysis.