What Is an Engineering Risk?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2018
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An engineering risk is the chance that a problem with the design of a product will create liabilities for the manufacturer. This can include products ranging from space shuttles to computer components. In the design and development phase, risk assessors determine the degree of risk and may make recommendations to reduce it. These improve product safety and create a clear paper trial to document steps taken to prevent obvious sources of malfunction. If a product does fail, engineers may evaluate it to find out why and determine the next step.

A number of varying factors go into engineering risk, and the process of estimating risks can include complex formulas as well as input from a large team. With something like a civil engineering project such as a bridge, risks can apply to the structural steel and concrete used, the integrity of the design itself, and problems with the workers. These must all be considered in an accurate and detailed risk assessment to ensure the project is fairly evaluated. Specialists in engineering risk may consult a variety of experts to arrive at an estimate.


Possible sources of failure can be identified and eliminated in the design process, but it is impossible to create a perfect product. Risk management teams may look at similar products, families of components, and known issues in the industry to develop detailed documentation. As a project moves forward, they can provide a cost/benefit analysis for the use of the design team. They may decide that further development isn’t merited, or that the cost of mitigating a very scant risk might be too high to proceed.

Concerns with engineering risk can include a variety of civil liabilities for manufacturers. If companies knowingly produce defective components, they can be subject to suits for damages if people are injured as a result. Negligence, like failure to exercise due diligence during the development process, can also be an engineering risk. The probability of different kinds of risks can be calculated to help companies make decisions about product development and production.

Experts in this field often have advanced degrees in engineering along with substantial experience in the industry. They may work with large teams and need to be skilled at communication and coordination on complex projects. For a product like a commercial aircraft, calculating engineering risk involves consideration of hundreds of components and issues that may arise. A tight attention to detail is critical to assure manufacturers that nothing is missed.



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