Is our apparatus foolproof?: Examination of safety-important characteristics of an electrostatic discharge tester for explosives

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Technicians in laboratories and factories need the instruments and equipment which they use to be reliable, available, maintainable, and safe. In addition, sometimes an apparatus is also required to be foolproof. This article deals with the question of how the concept of foolproofness may be defined and tested. To clarify its meaning, the term “foolproofness” is compared with a similar concept—that of inherent safety. The article proposes a criterion describing acceptable foolproofness of an instrument, and a procedure which may be used to test whether the apparatus is acceptably foolproof. An example illustrates how the procedure to examine foolproofness may be applied. Selected parts of a case study show that the procedure is applicable to the analysis of scientific apparatus under development, and that it is able to provide the designer with reasonable results. It helps reveal the areas where the design of apparatus could be improved. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Process Saf Prog 32: 283–297, 2013