Process hazards arise from any activity or combination of activities related to hazardous materials, including their use, manufacturing, storage, handling, as well as their transport. A “process hazard”, therefore, is defined as the uncontrolled and undesired release of material and/or energy from the process that has the potential to cause harm to people, the environment, or equipment. There are many common process hazards and all result because of the properties of the materials or the energy stored in those materials due to conditions in the facility.
Performing process hazard analysis (PHA) studies alone is simply not enough to ensure facilities operate safely. Process safety management can be a complex undertaking, involving many elements and resources, each serving specific purposes. While there are fourteen unique elements of PSM, there is a lot of overlap. However, all elements have to work together.
PHA is not the only element of a robust PSM program, and it cannot be expected to help identify all issues, nor can it be expected to fix all problems. PHA is a “forward” thinking process in which requires not only experienced participants with various skill sets, but it also requires a facilitator that understands the methodology used, and has the knowledge and experience to challenge the “PHA Team” participants.
In an average facility, there will be potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of hazards related to materials used, the technology used to process them, and the procedures followed to operate the plant. Management of the hazards and the risk associated with them, can be overwhelming, and it can be very easy to misplace the focus.
The PHA methodology if used correctly, with an experienced facilitator and team members, will identify a significant number of hazards. Once the hazards are identified, the risk related to each can be assessed. This assessment could be completed as a separate activity, but it fairly common to conduct an assessment of the risk as part of the hazard identification process (PHA study).
In the past, it was very common to assess risks using a qualitative approach, such as a risk matrix (Qualitative Risk Assessment). More frequently however, risks are assessed using a semi-quantitative process such as Layers of Protection Analysis (LOPA) as a whole, or more common, just assessing those hazards that pose a “high risk”. However, risk can be measured in other ways, including the use of mathematical modeling techniques (Quantitative Risk Assessment, or QRA).
The techniques that Process & Safety Solutions LLC (PSS) utilize to assist in the identification and analysis of hazards include: