Safety in DARE – Our Safety Board

Why we need a safety board

Rocket engineering is a dangerous business. The very function of rockets relies on the delivery of high amounts of energy over short amounts of time: a dangerous combination. DARE is proud to harbour the development of a great variety of exciting projects. However, this development is rarely as innocent as it is exciting. Making experimental rockets almost unavoidably entails explosives, hazardous chemical compounds and pressurised systems, as well as the necessity to ensure a safe and controllable flight. There is no room for error.

In the 16 years since founding, DARE has shown that students can conduct serious rocketry research in a safe and professional manner.

Do you think we are exaggerating? Look up terms such as ‘blackpowder detonation’, ‘nitrous oxide decomposition’, ‘cryogenic burn’, ‘oxygen enrichment’, ‘rocket engine explosion’ and you will quickly be persuaded our activities have plenty of potential for serious injuries and, even, casualties.  Yet, in its 16 years of history, the society has never had a single such incident.

“How has it managed?”, you may ask. The answer lies in one of its most fundamental and respected entities: DARE’s very own Safety Board.

Founding of the safety board

The Safety Board was founded upon the fundamental belief that safety is the foremost and utmost goal of the society during its operations. Created with the purpose of ensuring the safety of personnel and integrity of equipment during all activities, it consists of senior and experienced members of DARE with advanced knowledge of rocketry systems and the hazards involved.  Any activity with the potential to be hazardous is scrutinised by the Safety Officers in pursuit of ways to mitigate the risks. A Safety Officer is always present when hazardous activities are involved, while the Safety Board has the final word on the conduction of any such activity and the right to veto it. Prospective Safety Officers undergo extensive training in various areas prior to their appointment, such as the handling of pressurised systems, explosives, range safety, tackling legal affairs, etc.

The compliments that frequently flow by external parties on the professionalism of its activities, serve only as the testament to the quality of the Safety Board’s work. Over the course of its history, the society has seen numerous explosions, large scale fires and other types of incidents that naturally flow from the development of rockets. Despite the severity of the events themselves, never has a member even come close to sustaining injuries and never has a major piece of equipment come close to being damaged. And our Safety Officers will continue to ensure this remains the case for years to come.