Centre of Applied Research Technology

Measuring Safety Through the Distance Between System States with the RiskSOAP Indicator


Modern engineering systems are complex socio-technical structures with a mission to offer services of high quality, while in parallel ensuring profitability for their owners. However, practice has shown that accidents are inevitable, and the need for the use of systems-theoretic tools to support safety-driven design and operation has been acknowledged.

As indicated in accident investigation reports, the degradation of risk situation awareness (SA) usually leads to safety issues. However, the literature lacks a methodology to compare existing systems with their ideal composition, which is likely to enhance risk SA. To fill this gap, the risk SA provision (RiskSOAP) is a comparison-based methodology and goes through three stages: (1) determine the desired/ideal system composition, (2) identify the as-is one(s), (3) employ a comparative strategy to depict the distance between the compared units. RiskSOAP embodies three methods: STPA (System Theoretic Process Analysis), EWaSAP (Early Warning Sign Analysis) and dissimilarity measures. The practicality, applicability and generality of RiskSOAP is demonstrated through its application to three case studies. The purpose of this work is to suggest the RiskSOAP indicator as a measure for safety in terms of the gap between system design and operation, thus increasing system’s risk SA. RiskSOAP can serve as a criterion for planning system modifications or selecting between alternative systems, and can support the design, development, operation and maintenance of safe systems.

Published by  Centre for Applied Research Technology 26 January 2017

Publication date

Jan 2017


Nektarios Karanikas