We established metrics to assess HSE standards for the purpose of making cross standard comparisons to rank the standards and to predict resource requirements. We assessed six international safety standards, thirteen parts in total, to determine their degree of goal-based or prescriptive, generic, and process-oriented approach. We also recorded size, year of publication and the number of normative references. These standards were published in the period 1994-2006 and were selected because they were normative references in the working environment standard NORSOK-S002, developed by the Norwegian petroleum industry.

As new technologies emerge and the use of software in safety-critical systems increases, it can be challenging to provide effective, efficient and easy-to-use safety standards. Thus has the use of process-oriented and goal-based safety standards emerged where a prescriptive approach was inappropriate. Typically, more experienced personnel will be required to effectively apply goal-based standards compared to prescriptive ones.

We plan to use this framework to gain an overview of the use of goal-based versus prescriptive standards to predict resource requirements, such as personnel's competence.

The results revealed that our selection included both prescriptive and goal-based standards. We expected recent standards to be more goal-based than older ones, but a Spearman analysis revealed no correlation. We did, however, observe a weak correlation indicating that more recent publications were larger in size (0.55). We also observed that the degree of goal-based approach in a standard correlated negatively with the number of normative references (-0.45) and with the size (-0.35). Reasons for this can be that goal-based standards typically contain fewer specific requirements, which reduce the need for normative references and thus size.

We conclude that our framework appears appropriate to assess HSE standards and that we have established valid metrics for such assessments.

Effective safety standards are important in order to ensure safe systems at an acceptable cost. The rapid development of new technology, combined with a growing number of standards, calls for a systematic approach to assess, classify and compare HSE standards to predict their impact.

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