Dr Pauline Thompson
+44 (0) 131 451 4417
Public awareness of hazards and risks has enhanced the importance of safety assessment and management in today’s increasingly litigious society. Risk and safety issues need to be evaluated in a structured and calculated manner but in the light of an overall organisational strategy.
This programme aims to provide students with advanced knowledge of risk assessment techniques, the public and individual perception of risk, and how decisions are made in competitive business markets. The programme focuses on practical applications of safety methodologies, ergonomics and human factors, and safety and risk management techniques. It will develop students’ skills to undertake safety studies and manage safety and risk to the best national and international standards.
If you are interested in our courses you can join our Linked In group Safety Courses at Heriot-Watt where you can link up with other applicants, current and previous students and potential employers. Applying to join needs approval from the group owner which may take a week or two.
Delivered only by online Independent Distance Learning (IDL) this programme is ideal for those in employment or with other commitments, providing flexible study options that fit around work or family. Students receive comprehensive materials for each course through an online Virtual Learning Environment.
Visit our IDL Graduate Profiles page to learn what some of our graduates said about their experiences studying Safety and Risk Management at Heriot-Watt University.
An Independent Distance Learning (IDL) programme - whether at PgDip or MSc level - can be completed in a minimum of 2 years. On average, our PgDip programmes studied via IDL are completed in 2-3 years, while MSc programmes are completed in 2.5-7 years. Most students intend to complete their studies via IDL within 2-3 years.
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) or an Accredited IEng (Full) BEng/BSc (Hons) undergraduate first degree. See www.jbm.org.uk 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 associate programme Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering, have been developed with the assistance of staff and ex-graduates working in relevant companies. We are also developing links with a wide range of companies in the risk management fields.
In addition, this programme is also supported by the Civil Engineering Industry Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from major multi-national employers AECOM, ARUP, Balfour Beatty, Halcrow, Jacobs and WSP Group. This committee convenes regularly and advises on the programme content and structure, ensuring quality, up-to-date content and relevance to industry needs.
Course contentDetailed course guide
The MSc/Postgraduate Diploma in Safety, Risk and Reliability Engineering, led by Dr. Pauline Thompson, 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 a Masters dissertation.
|Semester 1||Semester 2|
Please find below the course descriptions. For more information on courses, please contact the Programme Leader.
Risk Assessment and Safety Management
Semester 1 (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 18000 series and other standards; Application of Safety Management Systems to failed systems and as a preventative tool.
Human Factors Methods
Semester 1 (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.
Human Factors in the Design and Evaluation of Control Rooms
Semester 2 (mandatory)
The course will equip students from academic and/or industrial backgrounds with in-depth knowledge on, insights into, and the means to deploy a wide range of specialist techniques relevant to the ergonomic design and evaluation of control rooms. The emphasis is on key areas of control room operations and on actionable ways to deploy theory on human capabilities and limitations in order to improve performance, safety, efficiency and overall operator well being. The course covers the following key areas:
Introduction to humans and control rooms; Competencies; Training; Procedures; Communication processes; Manning and workload; Automation; Supervision; Shift patterns; Control room layout; Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA); Alarms; The control room environment.
Fire Safety, Explosions and Process Safety
Semester 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.
Environmental Impact Assessment
Semester 2 (mandatory)
Provides students 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.
Topics include: Introduction to EIA; European EIA Legislation; Screening and Scoping; Baseline Studies, Analysis and Prediction of Impact; Consultation, Review and Monitoring; Beyond EIA: Strategic and Social Impact Assessment
Learning from Disasters
Semester 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
Value & Risk Management (M)
Semester 1 (mandatory)
The course aims to introduce the concepts of value & risk management, apply them to strategic and tactical problems and illustrate their tools and techniques through case studies. Subjects included in the course syllabus include:
VRM and the construction procurement process; introduction to value management; value engineering (function analysis and other VE tools); risk & uncertainty in the construction industry; Risk and procurement of PPP projects; risk management framework; sources, events and effects of project risk; tools and techniques of risk management; risk response and mitigation; client briefing.
Project Management: Theory and Practice
Semester 1 (mandatory)
This course aims to provide the student with an understanding of the concepts and practices of construction project management used to provide value added services to clients. The course develops understanding of the issues related to the management of construction clients and other project stakeholders and how their needs can be co-ordinated, managed and delivered from the project’s design stage through production to occupation and maintenance within the context of client satisfaction and the overarching construction project constraints of time, cost, quality sustainability, health and safety management.
Subjects covered in the course syllabus include: Construction project management concepts; standards and services; organisational structures for delivery of project management services; management strategies for clients and stakeholder briefing; issues related to management of construction project design process, and budget setting; tools/techniques for construction project planning and control of costs, time, risk and quality; issues relating to TQM and health and safety; teamwork and leadership roles.
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.
Recognition of Prior Learning
Heriot-Watt University is committed to providing opportunities to applicants who have a wide range of prior experiences through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). Prior learning at postgraduate level is normally recognised to gain exemption from individual courses within a programme based on an existing academic qualification. Note that the prior learning must have been rated at the level of the courses for which RPL is sought, yet credits from an award already held by an applicant can only contribute to a higher award in the same discipline, e.g. from PG Diploma to MSc. If you believe that you qualify for RPL, please contact the Learning & Teaching Support Team via email@example.com, who will guide you through the RPL application procedure.
The school will only consider students' requests for RPL at the time of application for their programme of study.
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 may be considered and will be required to provide documentary evidence of this. Examples would be secondary school education or undergraduate degree programme. A minimum of at least one year of full time study (or equivalent) in the medium of English language will be required.
We offer a range of English language courses to help you meet the English language requirement prior to starting your masters programme:
- 14 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with no more than one skill at 4.5);
- 10 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with minimum of 5.0 in all skills);
- 6 weeks English (for IELTS 5.5 with minimum of 5.5 in reading & writing and minimum of 5.0 in speaking & listening)
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 & funding
|Scotland / Non-UK EU||£1185**|
|England / Northern Ireland / Wales||£1185**|
* If you are unsure which category you fall in to, you should complete a fee status enquiry form, which allows us to assess your fees.
Additional fees information
Students pay £1185 per course and £1690 for the Dissertation. This programme consists of 8 courses (modules). MSc students are also required to submit a Masters dissertation.
For questions about IDL fees, please contact our Distance Learning Office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Scholarships & bursaries
We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.
View our full range of postgraduate taught scholarships.