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History of Risk Assessment – Part II

History of Risk Assessment – Part II


By Marvin Rausand & Stein Haugen


During World War II, the German mathematicians Robert Lusser and Eric Pieruschka made important contributions to the quantification of reliability. Their most well-known result was the formula for calculating the reliability of a series system. The first draft to a standard for risk and reliability emerged in 1949, through the guideline on failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) that was published by the US military as MIL-P-1629.This guideline was later converted to the military standard MIL-STD-1629A. Another important method, fault tree analysis, was introduced in 1962 by Bell Telephone Laboratories during a reliability study of the launch control system of the intercontinental Minuteman missile. The military standard MIL-STD-1574A “System safety program for space and missile systems” appeared in 1979 and was transformed to MIL-STD-882 “System safety” in 1987. Human error was early recognized as an important cause of accidents and the technique for human error rate prediction (THERP) was introduced in 1962, mainly by Alan Swain. THERP was primarily directed toward identification and prevention of human errors in nuclear power plants.

Until 1970, the risk assessments were mainly qualitative. Quantitative aspects entered the scene in parallel to the developments of reliability theory that started from the early 1960s. An impressive early work was the book “Reliability Theory and Practice” (Bazovsky 1961). Several new books on reliability theory appeared during the 1960s and set the scene for the introduction of quantitative risk assessments from approximately 1970. The first attempts to use a HAZOP-like approach to identify deviations and hazards in a chemical plant were made by ICI in 1963, but HAZOP, as we know it today, was not developed until around 1974.


Source :

Risk assessment : theory, methods, and applications 2nd edition

Marvin Rausand, Stein Haugen

Wiley 2020

Published at :

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