HAZOP Analysis: An Intuitive Risk Assessment Tool

HAZOP Analysis: An Intuitive Risk Assessment Tool

Written by Risk Management Team on June 29, 2020

A hazard and operability analysis, or HAZOP, is a systematic technique many risk assessment teams use to identify potential hazards and problems with the operability of a system or process. This kind of analysis has a relatively straightforward execution, and when teams take the time and patience to thoroughly evaluate a system by this method, they’ll be more prepared to address issues when they arise.

A HAZOP analysis is based on the theory that risk events are caused by deviations in the design or operational intent of a given system. It can apply to a wide variety of systems and processes including pharmaceutical quality, industrial equipment handling, environmental health impacts and more. It’s most useful for studying complex situations as it allows them to be studied from multiple perspectives.

Once you understand how to incorporate a HAZOP analysis to your risk assessment procedures, you’ll be able to better identify and assign preventative measures for hazards. First, though, you must understand the methodology and application of this kind of study.

HAZOP Methodology

In its most basic form, the goal of a HAZOP analysis is to identify anything that may cause harm to persons, property or the environment. These events are called hazards, and at least for the purposes of this kind of study, they arise whenever a system deviates from its intended purpose or plan in some way.

HAZOP studies are not exactly like a proper risk assessment. They do not require that the probability or severity of a hazard be identified, only that the hazard be assessed as “credible”. However, these studies can be used to identify potential risks in order for these factors to be quantified during the risk assessment process.

There are four basic stages of a HAZOP analysis.

1. Definition: In the first step, the risk manager needs to choose their risk team. A successful study cannot occur without the collaboration of a multidisciplinary team of employees who will be able to provide their unique perspectives to a scenario. Whoever you choose should have the appropriate experience and demonstrate good judgement. After your team is identified, you need to define the responsibilities of everyone involved, and set the scope and objectives of your study.

2. Preparation: Before the analysis can begin, this phase includes several activities that must be completed. This includes planning, documenting supporting information that will be helpful during the study, creating a template for recording study results and arranging a schedule that everyone signs off on. One of the most important tasks that must be taken prior to a HAZOP analysis is the identification of “guide words”. These will be very important to guiding your brainstorming sessions.

3. Examination: During examination of your system, you’ll begin by breaking it down into its individual parts. Those parts can then be further broken down into different components as necessary. Together, the team will define the design intent of each part or component, and then, using the guide words, the group identifies deviations. With each potential hazard, you must determine if it’s a credible threat, and then you need to define the causes and consequences of it. You’ll also brainstorm which, if any, preventative actions should be taken. You’ll repeat this process for each component and part of the system.

4. Documentation: Following your study, you should produce a report that documents your findings and re-examine any parts if necessary. This is also the time when you need to follow up on the actions assigned to address potential hazards and verify a process exists to effectively complete them.

Guide Words

A key supporting element in the execution of a HAZOP analysis are guide words. Their role is to encourage the risk assessment team to think more intuitively and imagine all scenarios. At the same time, they also serve to focus the direction of discussions and ideas, and contain a study to its principle objectives.

Each HAZOP study will have its own guide words according to the scope and objectives you decided upon in the first stage. Some common guide words may include: no/none/not, more, less, before, after, part of, other than, higher or lower. As you move through all of the parts of a system, these words help you identify potential deviations from operations or design.

For instance, a potential hazard could be if more pesticide is present than regulations deem acceptable, if part of a process is not completed before moving to the next, if a cleaner other than the typical solution is used or if the air filtration system turns off before it’s scheduled to. It’s important to note that not all possible combinations of guide words and system components will yield credible or even sensible potential deviations. These do not have to be documented in your study.

HAZOP in Risk Analysis

A HAZOP analysis is especially useful in helping to identify hazards that are difficult to quantify. These types of hazards are usually difficult to isolate, detect, count or otherwise obtain a clear picture of by any other means. In that respect, a key benefit of HAZOP studies is their lack of any requirement that you rate severity or the likelihood of occurrence.

For qualitative risk analysis, a HAZOP study is a helpful methodology for identifying risks and their associated mechanisms. They can be performed prior to a risk assessment or as part of the risk assessment, allowing your subject matter experts to use their experiences to make educated suggestions regarding potential deviations. A quantitative assessment can also be carried out following the completion of your HAZOP analysis, to help you identify the severity and probability of each scenario. Choosing to follow up with a quantitative analysis has the benefit of helping you to better prioritize the hazards initially identified.

Better Understand the Nature of Your Risk

HAZOP studies are a simple, intuitive methodology to implement for any risk assessment team, and they can provide a wealth of insights about your risk. You will gain a deeper understanding of a system from many angles including its environment, its capabilities, the controls and technology that govern it and what risk human interactions with it present.

Because they are so comprehensive, the data these studies yield can be difficult to handle. With a risk assessment management software, you can centralize and organize the entire process. ComplianceBridge Risk from ComplianceBridge allows you to manage all your assessments, audits and surveys in one centralized location. Automatically enforce the response process, create custom question sets, define and weigh your questions and review results as they come in in real-time. Whether you build assessments for qualitative or quantitative purposes, ComplianceBridge Risk gives you an incredible amount of control over your assessment creation and distribution.

To further enhance your risk management process, invest in a platform your risk management team will love for its ease and accessibility. Request a demo with ComplianceBridge today.

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