In 1998 we published a GCI Tech Notes that summarized the HAZOP process. Recently I had the opportunity to teach a class on performing HAZOPs to a group of safety professionals in Shanghai, China.
As a result of that experience further information on the process of performing HAZOPs will be presented in a new series of GCI Tech Notes starting with this issue.
A Hazard and Operability (HAZOP) study is a structured and systematic examination of a planned or existing process or operation in order to identify and evaluate problems that may represent risks to personnel or equipment, or prevent
efficient operation. The HAZOP technique was initially developed to analyze chemical process systems, but has later been extended to other types of complex systems including, as examples, transportation systems and software systems.
The HAZOP process is just one of a large number of different techniques available to the safety professional for analyzing systems to identify and prevent hazards. It has the further advantage that it also identifies and helps
to prevent operational problems. HAZOP studies require more details regarding the systems under consideration, but produce more comprehensive information on hazards and errors in the system design. As with any of these processes
there are pros and cons to using a specific technique for a particular circumstance. HAZOPs are not the best technique for every circumstance and it is important to understand the benefits as well as the costs and limitations of the
method before making the decision to use it in a particular circumstance.
The HAZOP process is a systematic examination.
The team approach to a HAZOP makes it a multidisciplinary study.
The HAZOP team utilizes operational experience.
The process covers safety as well as operational aspects.
Solutions to the problems identified may be indicated.
HAZOPs consider operational procedures.
HAZOPs cover human errors.
The HAZOP study led by independent person.
HAZOP study results are recorded.
For team members the process is easily learned and performed.
A HAZOP does not require considerable technical expertise for technique formulation.
As a systematic process it provides rigor for focusing on system elements and hazards.
The HAZOP process is a team effort with many viewpoints.
Commercial software is available to assist in HAZOP analysis.
A HAZOP focuses on single events rather than combinations of possible events.
The HAZOP focus on guide-words allows it to overlook some hazards not related to a guide-word.
Training is essential for optimum results, especially for the facilitator.
HAZOPs are typically very time consuming and thus expensive.
HAZOP is a hazard identification technique which considers system parts separately and systematically examines the effects of deviations on each part. Sometimes a serious hazard will involve the interaction between a number of parts of the
system. In these cases the hazard may need to be studied in more detail using techniques such as event tree and fault tree analyses. Many systems are highly inter-linked, and a deviation at one of them may have a cause elsewhere.
Adequate local mitigating action may not address the real cause and still result in a subsequent accident. Many accidents have occurred because small local modifications had unforeseen knock-on effects elsewhere. While this problem
can be overcome by carrying forward the implications of deviations from one part to another, in practice this is frequently not done. As with any technique for the identification of hazards or operability problems, there can be no
guarantee that all hazards or operability problems will be identified in a HAZOP study. The study of a complex system should not, therefore, depend entirely upon a HAZOP. It should be used as a compliment to other suitable techniques. It is
essential that other relevant studies are coordinated within an effective overall safety management system. The success of a HAZOP study depends greatly on the ability and experience of the study leader and the knowledge, experience
and interaction between team members. HAZOP only considers parts that appear on the design representation. Activities and operations which do not appear on the representation are not considered.
An important benefit of HAZOP studies is that the resulting knowledge, obtained by identifying potential hazards and operability problems in a structured and systematic manner, is of great assistance in determining appropriate remedial
measures. While a HAZOP is not appropriate in all circumstances one of the major benefits that can be used to help justify the cost and time investment is that it also helps to avoid operating problems and can thus provide a clear
return on the investment beyond the reduction in hazards.