Functional Safety: Recommended Reads

Functional Safety: Recommended Reads

While I am the functional safety guy for Analog Device’s industrial products I find it useful to read books related to many application areas. Often what is poorly explained in one book is very well explained in a book from another domain. I find a similar thing with the standards themselves. I imagine that some of the books I like, others will find not useful. It depends a lot on your level of knowledge, what you were hoping to find and your background.

I get my books from as I like to read my books on the Kindle app these days. With the Kindle app you can search for something, easily highlight important bits of text and my book press stops growing. However many of the books referenced from IEC 61508 are old are only paper copies are available and then only second hand.

If I had to pick two of the below to start with it would be the two free Rockwell automation books.


The first functional safety book I read was Safety Critical Systems Handbook by David J. Smith and Kenneth G.L. Simpson. As a result of reading the book I attended David Smiths training in the UK. If you read the first half of the book it gives a very quick and easy introduction to the topic.

The Functional Safety Lifecycle

Functional Safety – An IEC 61508 SIL 3 Compliant Development Process by Michael Medoff & Rainer Faller is an excellent book. Sections I particularly liked were those on derating and the quantitative analysis of failures rates on interfaces.

The System Safety-Lessons Learned in Safety Management and Engineering by Terry L. Hardy illustrates the importance of putting in the safety effort where it actually adds value.

Cenelec 50128 and IEC 6229 Standards by Jean-Louis Boulnger. While this concentrates on rail I decided the put it in the functional safety process section. I found it had lots of good insights and chapter 6 of “Data preparation” is good on parameter based systems.

The Checklist Manifesto – How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande is not a functional safety book at all. Gawande  expresses the value of checklists .

In the interests of Safety – The Absurd Rules that Blight our Lives and How We Can Change Them by Tracey Brown and Michael Hanlon. Not a functional safety book at all but it teaches you a lesson on how to use common sense as opposed to blindly following the letter of the rules.

Requirements Engineering by Elizabeth Hull, Ken Jackson and Jeremy *** is a good introduction to the topic. I really like the example of requirements traceability involving A4 pages, a big room and lots of string.

Configuration Management – Best Practices by Bob Aiello and Leslie Sachs is a good explanation of a topic that is covered in the standards as if everybody already knew how to implement it.


Reliability Maintainability and Risk by David J. Smith is a great effort to explain the maths behind functional safety in as readable a way as possible for such a topic.

Control systems Safety Evaluation and Reliability by William M. Goble has nice big writing, lots of pictures and chapter 9 on diagnostics has the best explanation I have seen on Markov analysis.



Better Embedded System Software by Philip Koopman does not claim to be a functional safety book at all and is now hard to get. However it has great chapter names such as “Global variables are Evil” and all that is in it is very relevant to functional safety.

Software for Dependable Systems – Sufficient Evidence – a short but interesting book

Embedded Software Development or Safety-Critical Systems by Chris Hobbs – is also a good and book with lots of interesting insights.

The Leprechauns of Software Engineering by Laurent Bossavit is a nice light book to read on an airplane and tries to find the source of many software myths.

Sector specific books

Process Safebook 1-Functional Safety in the Process Industry is a free book available in PDF or paper form from Rockwell automation.  It runs to 168 pages.

Safe Book 4 – Safety Related Control Systems for Machinery is another free book from Rockwell automation.

BGIA Report 2/2008e – Functional Safety of Machine Controls – Application of EN ISO 13849 is technically not a book but rather a free download. However it runs to over 400 pages and deals with everything related to ISO 13849 so I had to include it.

Functional Safety in Practice by Harvey T. Dearden is focused on automotive functional safety but has some good insights if the allusion to Russian roulette on the front cover is somewhat confusing.

Basic Guide to (Automotive) Functional Safety by Thorsten Langenhan has lots of English grammar mistakes but is still an insightful read.

Avionics Certification by Vance Hilderman and Tony Baghai is an encouraging book. If the requirements from functional safety seem impossible to achieve, have a read and you will feel better.

Cyber Security

If you are not secure then you can’t be safe. Therefore learning about cyber security is also important.

Embedded Systems Security by David Kleidermacher and Mike Kleidermacher is a book I want to read again.

Industrial Network Security by David J. Teumin is a short but good introduction.


Video of the Day: Finding a relevant video took a bit of thinking – this is my best effort:

For next time, the discussion will be on the “Functional Safety for Elevators”.