DIRC Workshop on Software Quality and the Legal System
13 February 2004, Gray's Inn, London
Focus of the Workshop
Software plays a key role in today's society. We depend on its correct functioning
in many ways: software defects may cause economic loss, accidents and pollution.
There are many factors playing a role in the creation of software. In the past,
designers tended to concentrate on the technical issues, but as the contact
between computers and users becomes ever more intense, more and more attention
must be paid to the connection between people and computer systems. The broader
view of “computer-based” systems is one of the focal points of the DIRC project
which recognizes that progress can only be made by interdisciplinary approaches.
It is therefore interesting to ask what influence the legal system might have
on software quality. In this workshop we wish to discuss the possible ways
the legal system can help to improve software quality including consideration
of potential pitfalls in trying to legislate in this difficult area. Questions
that will be addressed are:
- Do we need separate product legislation for software dependability?
- What's the effect of the law regarding corporate manslaughter?
- Is there a difference between legal accountability for software defects
and those of other products?
- What legal system serves the public interest with respect to software dependability
best? Should the current system be improved?
- What are the dangers of legislation (increased cost to cover insurance, …)?
- What is the role of standards like IEC61508?
- What is the role of the Health and Safety at Work Act?
|9:30 - 10.00
|10.00 - 10:15
||Introduction by Cliff
School of Computing
Science, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
|10.15 - 10:45
||Product Safety (46K ppt) by Dai
|10:45 - 11:15
||Functional Safety (200K ppt) by
|11:15 - 11:45
|11:45 - 12:15
Safety in Medical Systems (72K MS Word) by Peter Jordan
|12:15 - 12:45
||Legal Aspects of Software
Procurement (188K ppt) by Jos
|12:45 - 13:15
||A Legal Framework for Understanding
Software Systems Behaviour (1.12M pdf) by Les
Computing Laboratory, University of
|13:15 - 14:15
|14:15 - 14:45
||Corporate Functional Safety Management
(122K ppt) by
Safety Systems Consultants Ltd, Balcombe
|14:45 - 15:15
||Application of the HSE Competence
Guidelines to Software Engineering (1.4M ppt) by Rod May
|15:15 - 15:45
||Legal Accountability for Software Defects by Alan Fisher
Fisher Scoggins Solicitors, London
|15:45 - 16:15
|16:15 - 17:00
||Panel discussion "What contribution could legislation make to software
Moderated by Robin
for Software Reliability, City University, London
Jones, School of Computing Science,
University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
der Meulen, Centre for Software
Reliability, City University, London.
More information can be obtained from Meine van der Meulen, firstname.lastname@example.org, 020-70400274.
There is a leaflet containing
information on the workshop, for distribution.
Summaries of the Presentations
Functional Safety of electrical, electronic and programmable electronic
safety-related systems by Ron Bell
Ron Bell is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of
the Institution of Electrical Engineers. For over 20 years he has been
involved with the
development of guidelines and standards for safety-related control systems
(particularly those that are computer based). He is Head of the Electrical
and Control Systems Group in the Health & Safety Executive and a member
of the bi-national (UK/France) Channel Tunnel Safety Authority.
He was chairman of one of the International Electrotechnical Commission
(IEC) working groups responsible for developing IEC 61508; is currently
project leader for the revision of IEC 61508 and chairs one of the two
teams responsible for the revision. He is a member of the IEC Advisory
Committee on Safety (ACOS) with particular responsibilities for functional
safety and Chairman of the IEE Functional
Safety Professional Network.
The presentation considers:
- Examples of systems and subsystems under consideration.
- What’s the problem?
- Essentials of functional safety.
- Legal considerations.
- Standards and “good practice”.
The presentation’s main aim is to provide an overview
of the technical elements that make up functional safety and to examine
some of the legal
requirements relevant to functional safety.
Medical Device Manufacturers, Standards and the Law by Peter Jordan
Peter A. Jordan BA, C.Eng., MBCS, has recently retired from full-time
employment as a software process improvement manager in Elekta Ltd, who
manufacture radiotherapy equipment for the treatment of cancer. As an
independent consultant, he currently contributes to standards in the
medical device field, specialising in software and human factors.
Any manufacturer faces risk. The most obvious risks
arise from strong competition, excessive costs, product failures, or
This paper will address the manufacturer’s safety risk: the risk accepted
by the manufacturer that in spite of their best efforts their products
will cause harm to a customer or member of the public. It will explore
the question that the manufacturer has to answer: “how safe is safe?” from
the point of view of different stakeholders. What will emerge is a number
of conflicting answers. In choosing a level of safety, the manufacturer
is forced to take legal risks, offering products that are not “perfectly” safe
and accepting the risk of civil or even criminal liability. The paper
will explore how a medical device manufacturer might resolve conflicts
between cost and safety in a real, competitive situation.
Finally, the paper will suggest ways in which the law and standards
could give more help to manufacturers. These considerations are particularly
relevant to software. Software provides competitive new features. Time
to market and development costs are important, and the desire to minimise
these is in direct conflict with the desire to engineer robust (and therefore
A Legal Framework for Understanding Software Systems Behaviour by Les
Les Hatton C.Eng, FBCS is Professor of Software Reliability at
the Computing Laboratory, University of Kent and a director of Oakwood
Ltd. He holds an MA and Ph.D in mathematics from Cambridge and Manchester
respectively and recently an LL.M in IT law from Strathclyde. He has
been involved with software failure for many years as a victim, perpetrator
and latterly researcher for which he has been voted in the leading
international scholars of systems and software engineering of the last
10 years by
the US Journal of Systems and Software.
In this talk, he will attempt to describe dysfunctional software systems
behaviour from the point of view of both the lawyer and the computer
scientist. He will introduce the concept of digital convergence and the
legal complications this causes and will go on to address inter alia,
perceived differences between legal accountability for software defect
and defects in other products and services. In particular, he will address
whether software falls under existing categories of law or whether it
should be treated sui generis.
Corporate Functional Safety Management by Chris Goring
C. J. Goring BA (Hons) MInstMC was Chief Executive Officer of a UK based
International Group of Companies supplying software based safety systems
and consultancy to the Petrochemical and Nuclear Industries and various
National Security Organisations of the UK and US. He has recently been
involved in the writing of IEC 61511, an international standard for the
implementation of IEC 61508 in the process industry sector.
This presentation examines the role structure and importance of implementation
of Corporate Functional Safety Management (CFSM). it explains how a thorough
implementation of a top down CFSM policy can limit the scope for litigation
when single or multiple human errors occur that have the potential to
create a safety incident.
As well as the implementation and verification of safety procedures
and the correct selection of qualified staff, it examines the correct
or best practice approach to issues such as safety recall and modifications.
The presentation also reviews the balance between safety and cost, and
when, how and if weighting factors can be considered both at safety recall
and initial specification stages. It also addresses the question as to
whether different approaches can be taken in different markets both within
national boundaries and in an international context.
Application of the HSE Competence Guidelines to Software Engineering
by Rod May
Rod May is an engineering consultant providing services in safety and
project assurance including issues of professional competence. He has
been involved with the HSE/IEE/BCS study on competencies since 1995 and
has worked on Competency Management Systems for several concerns. Previously
Rod May held senior positions in design and marketing for Hewlett Packard
and Eurotherm. A CEng and FIEE, he has a PhD and BSc in Engineering from
Warwick and Leicester respectively.
The presentation will cover four topics:
- The IEC 61508 requirements for personnel competence.
International standards like IEC 61508 are seen as “best practice” and
can be used in support of a legal position.
- What makes a good standard of competency. A competency
standard must capture accepted “best practice” to undertake a role,
and must provide a mechanism for the assessment of an individual
to perform that role
to a defined level.
- The IEE Competency Guidelines. The IEE Competency
guidelines introduce a good model of competency and provide standards
of “best practice” for
individuals undertaking roles as main-stream safety-related practitioners.
- Application of the guidelines to software engineering. The IEE Competency
model has been used as the basis for the development of standards for
software engineering and improved support for personnel assessments.
Legal Accountability for Software Defects by Alan Fisher
Alan Fisher is solicitor with Fisher Scoggins LLP.
Systems are so complex that they are 'assembled' with no one 'designer'
knowing exactly how each component works. Capital Costs are becoming so
high that there is a driver to stick new systems onto old infrastructure
with potentially unseen compatibility problems. Accidents are bound to
happen. Who is accountable for software failure? Should compensation be
paid and by whom?
The media get involved, internal or HSE/public inquiries may be started
and not infrequently there are criminal or civil cases. Alan Fisher discusses
the awkward positions of the engineer, the manager, the regulator, and
of course: the lawyer.