The factor of safety also known as Safety Factor, is used to provide a design margin over
the theoretical design capacity to allow for uncertainty in the design process.
The uncertainty could be any one of a number of the components of the design process including
calculations, material strengths, duty, manufacture quality. The value of the safety
factor is related to the lack of confidence in the design process.
The simplest interpretation of the Factor of Safety is
FoS = Strength of Component / Load on component
If a component needs to withstand a load of 100 Newtons and a FoS of 4 is selected then
it is designed with strength to support 400 Newtons...
The selection of the appropriate factor of safety to be used in design of components
is essentially a compromise between the associated additional cost and weight and the benefit of
increased safety and/or reliability. Generally an increased factor of safety results from a heavier component or a component
made from a more exotic material or / and improved component design
The factors of safety listed below are based on the yield strength..
Repeated Cyclic loads : The factors established above must be based on the
endurance limit ( fatigue strength ) rather than to the yield strength of the material. The strength calculations should
also include for stress concentration factors.
Impact Shock forces : The factors given in items 3 to 6 are acceptable, but an impact factor (the above dynamic magnification factor) should be included.
Brittle materials :The ultimate strength is used as the theoretical maximum, the factors presented in items 1 to 6 should be approximately doubled.
Impact Shock forces : The higher factors of safety given above (2.5 to 4)
may be used but based on stress levels calculated based on the resulting dissipated
energy at impact.
Where higher factors might appear desirable, a more thorough analysis of the problem should be undertaken before deciding on their use.
Extreme care must be used in dealing with vibration loads, more so if the vibrations approach
resonant frequencies. The vibrations resulting from seismic disturbances are
often important and need to be considered in detail.
A convenient method of ensuring safe confident design is to use design codes;
A good standard used by mechanical engineer is BS 2573-Pt 1:1983 Rules For Design of Cranes.
Specification for Classification, stress, Calculations and design criteria for structures.
This standard (together with BS 2573 part 2) includes rules for completing calculations and applying factors and the relevant
allowable stresses to be used for the different grades of materials. This standard is
primarily used for design of cranes and associated equipment but it is used widely for
design of similar mechanical systems. When designing systems based using the rules from this standard
it is not generally necessary to include additional margins of safety..
When design engineering structures using structural steel section a useful standard is..
BS 5950-1:2000-Structural use of steelwork in building. Code of practice for design. Rolled and welded sections.
This standard together with BS 5950-Part 2,3-1,4,5,6,7,8 & 9 provide service factors and design stresses
relevant to structural design.
In designing many equipment items including vessels, pumps, valves, piping systems there are equivalent
standards and codes which should be followed. These documents generally identify the necessary
design procedures and the safety margins to be included.
Use of Proprietary Items
A mechanical design often includes rolling element bearings, gearbox units, shaft couplings,
belt /chain drives etc. When using these items it is necessary to strictly follow
the design rules provided in the suppliers technical documents. The operating duties
and service factors to be used are generally clearly specified. It not
correct to simply use oversized equipment for convenience. It is also recommended that
the supplier is consulted on the duty.