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Safety Hazard Analysis Tool Receives Excellence in Technology Transfer Award

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Volpe’s Safety Hazard Analysis Tool (SafetyHAT) received the Federal Lab Consortium’s (FLC) 2014 Excellence in Technology Transfer Award for the northeast region. This distinguished award recognizes individuals who have brought outstanding government-developed technology to the commercial marketplace.

“Since STPA is a relatively new hazard analysis method, SafetyHAT helps break down the analysis steps and provides user-friendly data entry forms and succinct guidance to help the analysts quickly get up to speed with the method.” 

- Dr. Qi Van Eikema Hommes, SafetyHAT project manager

Dr. Qi Van Eikema Hommes, Chris Becker, and Wendell Mah accepted the award on September 10 at the FLC Northeast Regional Meeting in New London, Connecticut. The award—chosen by a panel of technology experts—deemed SafetyHAT the best example of technology transfer in the region for 2014.

“After winning Volpe’s 2012 Innovation Challenge grant to develop this software, we have received a number of inquiries about the tool’s availability,” said Dr. Van Eikema Hommes. “We are delighted to see the high level of interest in our tool and we are honored by this recognition.”

According to Dr. Van Eikema Hommes, “We made the tool freely available to those who want to improve safety, following Volpe’s mission of ‘Advancing transportation innovation for the public good.’”

About SafetyHAT

SafetyHAT, a software tool that is free for public download, was designed to facilitate the hazard analysis of complex systems, such as electronic control systems. It helps safety analysts efficiently and effectively carry out the System Theoretic Process Analysis (STPA).

STPATransportation Systems SafetyHAT logo is a hazard identification method based on a top-down system engineering approach and control systems theory. It provides an algorithmic and well-guided analysis process that identifies the causes of system hazards, including hardware component failures, software errors, complex system interactions, human errors, and inadequate organization management, policy, and procedures.

“Since STPA is a relatively new hazard analysis method, SafetyHAT helps break down the analysis steps and provides user-friendly data entry forms and succinct guidance to help the analysts quickly get up to speed with the method,” explained Dr. Van Eikema Hommes.

A comprehensive hazard analysis for a complex system typically generates a long list of hazards and causal factors, said Dr. Van Eikema Hommes. SafetyHAT uses a database to manage the large quantity of data generated by the analysis, and helps maintain data consistency while facilitating analysis iterations and revisions.

The output of STPA and SafetyHAT is a list of identified causes of hazards that can be used to do the following:

  • Develop safety requirements and testing scenarios
  • Initiate risk analysis, risk control, and system assessment activities
  • Design and assess safety solutions

Within three months of its public release, SafetyHAT attracted more than 150 users from five continents, distributed across industry (45 percent), the public sector (35 percent), and academia (15 percent).

When asked about the tool’s potential uses, Dr. Van Eikema Hommes stated that STPA is a hazard analysis method that can be applied to modern transportation technologies in multiple transportation modes, as well as systems outside of transportation.

SafetyHAT users include those in the energy, healthcare, and insurance industries and the military. It has prompted inquiries on how STPA might be used for assessing human behavior as part of railroad grade crossing safety systems and infrastructure safety hazards arising from extreme weather events.

The first application of SafetyHAT outside of Volpe was an application to the U.S. Coast Guard’s financial management IT system and accompanying business process.

About the Federal Lab Consortium

Concept image depicting global technology transfer.

FLC is the nationwide network of federal laboratories that provides a forum to develop strategies and opportunities for linking laboratory mission technologies and expertise with the marketplace. For the public and private sectors, FLC brings laboratories together with potential users of government-developed technologies.

To learn more, visit the FLC website.