My name is Phil Eames and I’m a chemical engineer with 36 years of experience in the process industries in a variety of engineering and management roles. I have a long-held interest in process safety and have practised as a process safety consultant for the last ten years, attaining Professional Process Safety Engineer status in 2015.
The introductory article in this series identified increasing the effectiveness of process hazards identification as an important challenge in process safety management. This second article suggests some ways to address this challenge, with a focus on hazard and operability study (HAZOP).
As an experienced HAZOP facilitator I’m often approached to lead studies in many sectors of the process industries. Invariably the offer comes in the form: “Can you come and lead a 2-day (or 5-day, or 3-week etc) HAZOP study for us?” The duration is nearly always specified and, in my experience, appears to be based more on project timescales or the availability of personnel rather than on the time required to carry out a comprehensive study. In today’s fast-moving, competitive world, this is understandable but, given the value we place in hazard identification at the heart of process safety management (to manage hazards we have to first understand them), it may suggest that we could be at risk of compromising the effectiveness of the technique and missing opportunities to make our processes safer and more resilient.
A recent study of the 100 largest loss incidents in the onshore oil, gas and petrochemical sectors between 1996 and 20151 supports this possibility. It showed that almost 60% of non-mechanical integrity failure incidents involved weaknesses in hazard identification, as shown in Figure 1, principally due to:
We cannot quantify the effectiveness of hazard identification studies at the time they are performed, but we can give ourselves the best chance of being able to execute rigorous (thorough and creative) studies. Here are some ways you can help this:
Effective hazard identification will improve our understanding of the process, make it safer and make it more resilient to disturbances, but it requires adequate time, a team with the right mix of knowledge and experience, good supporting information, and a skilled facilitator. Getting all that to come together at the right time requires good planning.
In the next article we will explore the concept of the “basis of safety” and how it can be documented and maintained. In the meantime, I hope you can use some of the ideas presented here to plan for greater effectiveness in future hazard identification studies and, through that, make your new and existing plants safer and more resilient.
1. Jarvis and Goddard, "An Analysis of Common Causes of Major Losses in the Onshore Oil, Gas and Petrochemical Industries", Loss Prevention Bulletin 255, June 2017.
IChemE’s HAZOP Leadership & Management course provides a more detailed exploration of this topic, including HAZOP planning, preparation and facilitation skills.