Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Class Description

The goal of 16.863J is to teach basic principles of system safety, including accident analysis, hazard analysis, design for safety, human factors and safety, controlling safety during operations, and management of safety critical projects and systems. While you will learn what is currently done today, you will also learn new techniques that are proving to be more powerful and effective than the traditional safety engineering approaches.


There will be an assignment most weeks that includes reading and then applying the things you have read. Sometimes I will ask you to comment on a specific question. Other times you will be asked to apply some technique or approach to an accident or application area. In the latter case, I encourage you to take a particular problem (e.g., accident report) in your area of interest but I will provide one or two you may choose from if you do not want to pick your own. Part of each class session will consist of sharing your results and opinions with the rest of the class so we can all learn from them.

Many of the assignments will ask you to come up with your own beliefs and philosophy. It need not be your lifelong belief, only how you feel at the present time. You probably will change your mind several times in your life, perhaps even by the end of the class. That's fine; it's part of the process.


Grading will be based on the weekly assignments and class participation. You will not be graded on your beliefs or opinions (and whether they agree with mine), but rather the depth of your analysis and thinking. Clearly this is subjective so grading will probably come down to your completing the assignments and doing so on time and with what appears to be some thought. The assignments must be completed by the beginning of the class noted in the Calendar.

Textbooks and Reading

There are two books for the class: My 1995 Safeware book, and my new book (a draft is available on the Engineering a Safer World website), and a few other readings that will be assigned each week.

Buy at Amazon Leveson, Nancy. Safeware: System Safety and Computers. Addison-Wesley Professional, 1995. ISBN: 9780201119725.

Buy at Amazon ———. Engineering a Safer World: Systems Thinking Applied to Safety. MIT Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780262016629. (Online version)