Importance of Safety Factor in Design Engineering

In today’s engineering practices, ‘safety’ is one of the most important factors for every product or part that is designed for different uses. With the passing years, safety regulations are getting stricter because of the accidents that take place due to unpredictable situations. By learning these unpredictable situations make them predictable ones. With the increasing predictable situations, safety standards are getting stricter. 

In engineering design, the ‘safety factor’ term may be one of the most encountered terms by designers. Here, the importance of safety factors in engineering is explained. 

What Is Safety Factor?

The safety factor is the factor that a material’s maximum strength value is divided by it to find the design strength. At maximum strength, the material will start to fail. But in mechanical design, that maximum strength value is not used as maximum stress value because of accuracy and precision reasons. It must be divided by a ‘safety factor’ to obtain safe value to prevent the possible failures to cause accidents. 

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The safety factor must be bigger than ‘1’. This means, defined maximum allowable stress value is defined as smaller than the maximum failure stress of the material. If it is smaller than ‘1’ it is not allowable. 

Specifying Safety Factor

Specifying or defining a safety factor value for a mechanical design is one of the biggest problems that design engineers are facing. It depends on the experience and the accidental danger of the designed tool. 

Experience is about years of customer feedbacks and in-corporation and field tests of the product in service. According to these combined experiences, the company or an engineer can define a successful safety factor for the designed product or part. 

The accidental danger of the product or part is also a very important factor in defining a reasonable safety factor value. Think about an automobile brake system. In the case of the failure of the brake system, the result will be mortal. So, defining a high safety factor is very important for the materials that are used in brake systems. Also, think about a handle of a lightweight metal container. In the failure scenario of that handle, outcomes probably will not be mortal like in the automobile brake case. In this case, safety factors can be treated more flexibly and lower safety factors can be defined. 

Higher Safety Factor Does Not Mean A Good Design

A designer or an engineer must consider the cost of the product. Lowering the material expenses is another practice in design. So, with the increased safety factor, material expense increases. This increases the costs. 

According to the facts stated above, optimization between the costs and safety factor is very important in part and product design. Experience in the design field is very important for this practice. 


These are the general aspects of safety factors in engineering design and the parameters that affect the safety factor values in engineering design. 

Do not forget to leave your comments and questions below about the factor of safety in engineering design! 

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