Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering (distance learning only) MSc/Diploma
- Delivery: Distance Learning
- Programme type: Taught Programme
- Study location:
- Entry date:
- January, September
Risk has become a key concept in modern society. Growing concern about the environment and a number of disasters have served to focus attention on the hazards and risks involved in a wide range of activities from offshore oil production to rail and air transport; from the design of football stadia to the operation of chemical plants and environmental protection. Today there is a wide range of techniques available to assess risk and reliability, both in relation to safety and in the wider sense. These techniques now underpin new legislation on safety and have relevance over a broad spectrum of activities, including environmental and other systems, where risk and reliability are key concerns.
The MSc/PG Diploma programme in Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering is designed to give a thorough understanding of these techniques and experience of their application to a variety of real-world problems. It aims to provide students with an understanding of safety, risk and reliability engineering in both a qualitative and quantitative manner, and to develop the skills to apply this understanding. The programme will also introduce students to recent developments in analytical techniques, e.g. computer modelling of risk, reliability and safety problems.
This MSc degree is accredited as meeting the requirements for Further Learning for a Chartered Engineer (CEng) for candidates who have already acquired an Accredited CEng (Partial) BEng (Hons) undergraduate first degree. See the Joint Board of Moderators (JBM) for further information.
The MSc and PgDip degrees have also been accredited by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). Graduates are eligible to join IOSH as Graduate members and then undertake an initial professional development process that leads to Chartered membership.
This programme and the associated Safety and Risk Management programme have been developed with the assistance of staff and ex-graduates working in relevant fields. Many companies support our programmes and employ our graduates.
There is an increasing demand for personnel to be able to cross the divide between the technical expertise of safety engineering and the management of an organisation and its employees.
To be effective in this role requires a good understanding of many complex safety issues whilst appreciating the wider picture. In addition the contribution of safety related losses in a business strategy is often overlooked. For example, minor slips, trips and manual handling operations account for the largest proportion of staff time lost to work-related ill-health and injury.
It is thus important that a safety and risk manager should have a good understanding of the major safety issues likely to affect the function of the organisation.
The MSc/Postgraduate Diploma in Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering is only available by attendance-free distance learning. The programme comprises eight courses. All courses have written examinations and some have compulsory coursework elements. MSc students are also required to complete an individual project (dissertation).
Risk Assessment and Safety ManagementSemesters 1 & 2 (mandatory)
This courses aims to give students an appreciation of risk from individual and societal perspectives as well as understanding the basic principles of risk assessment and modelling and how safety management works in practice. Subjects include:
The concept and perceptions of hazards and risk. Risk attitudes and impact on decision-making; Interpretations of probability; Quantitative and qualitative aspects of risk; Modelling of decision making under conditions of risk; Inherent Safety; HAZOP; Safety management systems such as BS EN ISO 14000 series and other standards; Application of Safety Management Systems to failed systems and as a preventative tool.
Systems ReliabilitySemesters 1 & 2 (mandatory)
Gives an understanding of the qualitative and quantitative techniques that are used in the reliability, availability and maintainability analysis of all types of engineering systems. The syllabus is:
Basic concepts of reliability, availability and maintainability; Failure rates, failure modes, and reliability data; Reliability of systems by reliability block diagram analysis of series and parallel systems; Reliability Centred Maintenance, including replacement strategy, and inspection of standby systems; Markov modelling of system failures; Probabilistic safety analysis, based on Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis, Event trees and Fault trees.
Learning from DisastersSemesters 1 & 2 (mandatory)
Gives students an in depth understanding of some of the classic disasters and their consequences by using a range of practical accident investigation techniques. Students will learn to analyse complex histories in order to find the underlying root cause. Topics covered:
Accident models; Root cause and accident analysis techniques concentrating on events and causal factors analysis, barrier analysis, change analysis and the management oversight and risk tree; Review a number of famous disasters including Piper Alpha, Herald of Free Enterprise, Bhopal, Clapham Junction etc.; Identify lessons learned from these disasters; Review some of the major safety lessons from historical disasters; Analyse a real disaster in detail using a number of practical techniques
Safety, Risk and ReliabilitySemesters 1 & 2 (mandatory)
Leads to an understanding of the principles of structural reliability theory and its application to risk and reliability engineering. The course aims to cover the following:
Introduction to concepts of structural safety and risk; Introduction to probability theory and probability distributions; Probabilistic modelling of strength and loads; The First Order Second Moment method and the First Order Reliability method; Reliability-based code calibration; Monte-Carlo simulation and variance reduction techniques; Introduction to the causes of structural deterioration (corrosion, fatigue and fracture) and risk based inspection strategies using Bayesian methods.
Fire Safety, Explosions and Process SafetySemesters 1 & 2 (mandatory)
Introduces students to the basic principles of fire safety science and engineering, and develops skills in associated modelling leading to an understanding of principal fire/explosion related issues in process safety. Subjects include:
Objectives of fire safety science and engineering; Fire chemistry: stoichiometric burning, ignition, flammability limits; Mechanisms of heat transfer; The burning process; flashpoint, firepoint, flame spread; Fires in enclosures; computer-based models of fire development. Flashover & backdraught; Life threat, human behaviour, evacuation; Fire severity & fire resistance. Probabilistic modelling; Explosions: deflagrations, detonations, fire-balls; Fire related aspects of process safety. Piper Alpha disaster.
Data Analysis and SimulationSemesters 1 & 2 (mandatory)
Develops knowledge of statistical data analysis and its application in engineering and science and introduces the concepts of using simulation techniques for analysis of complex systems. It also teaches linear optimisation techniques and the ability to apply them to solve simple problems. Topics covered:
Introduction to statistics; Basics of probability theory; Probability distributions; Sampling and confidence intervals; Hypothesis testing; Data correlation and regression analysis; Random number generation; Simulation and modelling; Elements of queuing theory; Introduction to optimisation techniques.
Human Factors MethodsSemesters 1 & 2 (mandatory)
This course will equip students from academic and/or industrial backgrounds with knowledge on, and the means to deploy, a wide range of specialist human factors techniques. The emphasis is on method selection, application, combination and integration within existing business practices. Students will develop a critical awareness of what methods exist, how to apply them in practice and their principle benefits and limitations. The syllabus includes:
Introduction to human factors problems and human factors methods; Task analysis; Cognitive task analysis; Human error identification; Situation awareness assessment; Mental workload assessment; Team assessment; Interface analysis; Design methods; Performance time prediction; Method integration; Human factors integration
Environmental Impact AssessmentSemesters 1 & 2 (mandatory)
Provides the candidate with the knowledge and understanding of the principles and processes of the Environmental Impact Assessment. By the end of the course, the student should be familiar with the European EIA legislation and its translation into the Scottish planning system, and be able to demonstrate an understanding of the EIA process, the tools and the agents involved in an EIA and the possible problems with using EIA as a decision making tool. . It is also intended that the student will be able to appreciate the purpose of the EIA process from a number of perspectives; that of a developer, an EIA practitioner and a policy maker. The course plan includes:
Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment; European EIA Legislation; Screening and Scoping; Baseline Studies, Analysis and Prediction of Impact; Consultation, Review and Monitoring; Beyond EIA: Strategic and Social Impact Assessment
MSc students are also required to complete an individual project (dissertation). This programme has a stronger engineering bias and you should only attempt this if you have done some University level mathematics or equivalent. Otherwise the Safety and Risk Management course might be more appropriate.
For the project component of the programme distance learners are likely to develop something based in their country of residence with advice and supervision from staff in the School. This may well include work with a local company or may involve independent study. Individual arrangements will be set up with each student.
Pauline Thompson has been working on our safety MScs since 2002. She teaches three of the courses on each of the two safety programmes, has contributed to most of the other courses within the two programmes and supervises many of the student dissertations on these programmes. Her research includes many aspects of risk analysis and sustainability with applications in civil engineering.
For MSc level entry applicants must have:
- Minimum of 2:2 honours degree or equivalent academic qualification in cognate and semi-cognate subject area. For PG conversion programmes, non-cognate degrees will be considered. Corporate (or chartered) membership of relevant professional institutions will also be considered.
For PG Diploma level entry applicants must have:
- Third class honours degree in a cognate or semi-cognate subject area PLUS 2 years of relevant experience at an appropriate level completed post qualification.
- Cognate or semi-cognate ordinary degree PLUS 3-4 years of relevant experience at an appropriate level following graduation.
- Candidates who do not meet the above entry requirements or have no formal academic qualifications will be considered individually based on their CV and interview. Admission via this route will be at the discretion of the Director of Admissions and the number of successful applicants will be restricted.
There is no entry at PG Certificate level except through exceptional agreement with approved learning partners.
Non-graduating study at masters level:
- Entry is based on CV or on formal academic qualifications or graduate (or incorporated) membership of a relevant professional institution.
English language requirements
If English is not the applicant’s first language a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent is required with all elements passed at 6.0 or above.
Applicants who have previously successfully completed programmes delivered in the medium of English language will be required to provide documentary evidence of this. Examples would be secondary school education or undergraduate degree programme. A minimum of one year of full time study (or equivalent) in the medium of English language will be required.
Distance learning students
Please note that independent distance learning students who access their studies online will be expected to have access to a PC/laptop and internet.
Fees for this programme can be found on our Tuition fees page.
Scholarships & bursaries
Alumni Scholarship Scheme
Architectural Engineering Scholarships
Scottish applicants or applicants resident in Scotland to the Architectural Engineering MSc programme
British Chamber of Commerce in Germany Foundation Scholarship (German students)
Carnegie-Cameron Taught Postgraduate Bursaries
Applicants must be Scottish by birth, have at least one parent born in Scotland or have been continuously resident in Scotland for a period of three years for the purpose of secondary or tertiary education.
Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan
International (Commonwealth citizens)
Department for International Development (DFID) Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme
Department for International Development (DFID) Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme
International (Commonwealth citizens)
East Lothian Educational Trust
Applicants must be a resident of the old county of East Lothian (ie excluding Musselburgh, Wallyford and Whitecraig.)
Entente Cordiale Scholarships
French nationals aged 35 or under.
Students who have applied via the Heriot-Watt India office. Please note that this award is available for study at our Edinburgh campus only.
Japan Scotland Association Scholarship
Japanese nationals planning to enter a postgraduate course at Masters level at a Scottish University.
Leverhulme Trade Charities Trust
Restricted to residents of the UK who are a son, daughter, spouse, widow or widower of a commercial traveller, chemist or grocer.
Local Education Authority Awards
Panasonic Trust Fellowships
Specified courses only
Part-time Fee Grant (SAAS)
See SAAS residence conditions.
Postgraduate Student Allowance Scheme (SAAS)
EU and UK applicants who meet the SAAS criteria on eligible courses
Remission of Fees (families of staff)
Spouses/civil partners and children of members of staff, also retired members of staff of the University
Royal Caledonian Schools Trust
Applicants must be of Scots parentage (conditions apply - see below)
SAAS (Postgraduate Students Allowances Scheme) Tuition Fee Loan
EU and UK applicants who meet the SAAS criteria on PSAS nominated courses and who have accepted an offer to study from the School of the Built Environment
SFC Key Skills Funded Places (SBE)
All applicants resident in Scotland who accept an offer for an eligible Programme
Scotland's Saltire Scholarships
Citizens of Canada, the People's Republic of China, India or USA (2 awards for each country)
Employees of Heriot-Watt University
West Lothian Educational Trust
Individuals must have originated in West Lothian or have lived there for the last 3 years.