50 Years of Safety: How Germany Pioneered Standardization

The world’s first TÜV-certified safety system, Planar, hit the market 50 years ago. To honor that event, we deliver insights into standardization, certification, and historical, technological development. So that you can learn how we got to where we are today, we spotlight Germany’s role as a pioneer in functional safety norms and standards.

Germany is known for precision, meticulousness, and orderliness. And while it is true that many culture-specific conceptualizations are the result of years of stereotyping, in this case there is sense that these qualities are actually embedded into its society and policy, recognized globally as an example to follow.

Throughout the years, and particularly after the Industrial Revolution – which swept across Europe and the US in the 18th and 19th centuries – this mindset of safety, security, and standardization has seeped into critical industrial affairs in Germany. International regulations on functional safety later built on preexisting German standards which – as you will come to learn throughout this blog series – have been developed with HIMA at the core.

But to fully understand how Germany came to be the functional safety powerhouse that it is today, we have to go back to the mid-19th century.

The Route to Functional Safety

On January 28, 1865, a steam boiler exploded at a brewery in Mannheim, Baden-Württemberg. Although discussions had taken place regarding the subject prior to the explosion, it prompted a committee of 26 locals to establish an independent, impartial testing organization. The Gesellschaft zur Überwachung und Versicherung von Dampfkesseln  (The Steam Boiler Inspection Association) formed the basis for what we know today as TÜV, one of the world’s leading testing, inspection, and certification companies.

For five decades now, HIMA has partnered with TÜV to push the idea of functional safety forward. Before everyone else these experts understood the risks that can stem from industrial hazards. Owners of plants may have had the financial risk, but plant operators were the ones in true danger if incidents occurred.

In large part thanks to HIMA’s participation, proactive risk analysis became the norm in the 1970s and monitoring systems started to protect people, equipment, and the environment. It was at this time, that HIMA’s Planar system entered the market and set a new benchmark in industrial safety. For the first time, a safety controller was available which was certified by the well-established TÜV to work without interruption and would be valid all over the world.

“Germany ensures a high level of functional safety which is considered exemplary on the international stage.”
Merlin Hilger,
Functional Safety Expert, TÜV Rheinland

HIMA and TÜV: Bringing Standards up to Scratch

Later on, committees around the world discussed and developed standards. As well as various TÜV experts, industrial and professional associations, and universities, HIMA played a key role. A historical example of proactive collaboration was in the development of standards for combustion equipment, such as VDE 0116, which dealt with early, hard-wired computer technology. This transformed into the Europe-wide DIN EN 50156, which applies to the design and application of electrical equipment, control circuits, and safety-related systems for furnaces.

In a handbook the committees published in 1984, they considered programmable technology – for the first time – a part of safety-relevant applications. Standardization activity began to increase in industrial Germany. Although SILs were not yet established to characterize the probability of equipment failure, the Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN) had defined hazards and risks in relation to recently-developed programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and electromechanical devices.

Today’s three main standards for functional safety are IEC 61508, IEC 61511, and IEC 62443.

“Functional safety has a lot to do with companies’ responsibility. Nobody wants to be in the headlines when people, or the environment, is harmed.”
Jana Klaes,
Assessor, TÜV Rheinland

A Leading Land

Germany standardization made a name for itself and went global. Contributions from HIMA and TÜV had advanced the regulatory world through their cooperation in standardization committees. As Industry 4.0 sweeps across industrial fields and cybersecurity threats amplify, companies from all over seek certified solutions that can ensure optimal functional safety. Thanks to the companies’ involvement, they can.

While “Made in Germany” remains a mark of manufacturing quality, safety and security certification from German standards associations can prove just as valuable. That’s why, today, over 35,000 of HIMA’s TÜV-certified smart safety solutions are applied worldwide.

Keep posted as our “50 Years of Safety” series develops! We will reveal in finer detail how HIMA and TÜVs collaboration has developed throughout the years, how TÜV approaches certification with a five-step methodology, as well as examine how Industry 4.0 is changing how companies manage functional safety.