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Hazardex 2019 Conference Presentations - Risk Management & Engineering Judgement: 4 Shades of Grey

Author : Harvey T. Dearden, Engineering Director, HTS Engineering Group Ltd.

20 November 2018

The effective exercising of engineering judgement may be identified as one of the hallmarks of the true professional engineer.  But in embracing this notion, there is perhaps a danger that individual engineers may become over eager to exercise their judgement in demonstration of their professionalism.  

We may identify a further hallmark as an awareness of this danger and the recognition of the need to guard against it.  The all too human traps of arrogance and hubris are set to ensnare us. We need to exercise appropriate meta-judgement; judgement about judgements.

Our primary defence must be an awareness of this situation, and in this regard, it may be useful to consider the ‘space’ within which engineering judgement is exercised by the individual engineer. 

This presentation identifies the dimensions that characterise this space and the degree to which engineers should validate their judgements and how they might do this.  (The ‘4 shades’ refers to the distinct areas by which the space is characterised.)

It considers the responsibilities and liabilities placed upon the professional engineer and the apparent reluctance shown by many ostensibly competent engineers to exercise judgement and asks from what this may spring?  The ‘case for the prosecution’ is also considered.

It also considers the relevance of rigour and uncertainty in the evaluations that should inform our judgements.


Harvey T. Dearden (BSc CEng FIET FIMechE FInstMC FIChemE) is Engineering Director of HTS Engineering Group and a director of SISSuite Ltd. and Time Domain Solutions Ltd.

He is actively involved with the Institute of Measurement & Control and specialties include: Implementation of IEC61508/61511 (SIL), DSEAR/ATEX; Development/troubleshooting of control systems/strategies; Development of engineering management policy/procedures; Auditing of fiscal measurement systems and Training on control/measurement/protection systems

He previously held senior engineering positions at Great Lakes Chemical, Associated Octel Company, Costain Oil and Gas & Process Ltd

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