Risk Matters Series: How Risk Discovery Can Improve Your PHA Process

October 1, 2020

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How Risk Discovery Improves High Hazard Operations 

When you finish a risk assessment like a Process Hazards Analysis (PHA), how do you measure your success? Did you get hot lunches or was it the dreaded corporate sandwich plate? Obviously, the meals provided aren’t the best measure, so what is? How good you feel about the work? How many scenarios you created? If you finished early or on time?

These are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that many people use to gauge the success or failure of a PHA – not the sandwich one, that was just a joke. Do we feel good about it? Did we generate a large report? Did we finish on time and on budget? How many recommendations were created (hopefully not too many)? These KPIs fail to measure the true success of a PHA which is ‘Did we find all the risks and mitigate them adequately?’ At Risk Alive Analytics, we call that Risk Discovery.

Everyone in a risk assessment, such as a PHA, does their best to bring the benefit of their years of experience and knowledge of their process. The challenge is that many of the most experienced people in industry are retiring or too busy to participate in a PHA team. The result is that less experienced personnel are sent to attend and the study proceeds without the benefit of that knowledge.

Having tools to measure success at the end of a PHA before the team goes back to their regular work can give you an opportunity to improve, while making sure risk assessments are complete and comprehensive.

“What you don't know can't can kill you."

– English Proverb (modified)

What if you could measure your risk discovery against a massive database of PHAs for similar facilities? Granted each site is different but many facility types follow very similar designs and have similar risks. Nearly everyone would agree that most often, process sites in a given category are more similar than they are different. Risk Discovery can pinpoint opportunities for improvement and detailed analytics can deliver that needle in the haystack, the black swan scenario that was missed and can lead to a bad day.

Risk Alive Analytics Blog - How Risk Discovery Improves PHA

What Questions Could You Ask To Measure PHA success?

  1. Did we have good risk discovery? How do you know?
  2. Did we uncover all known and hidden risks from our study?
  3. Did we miss any hazardous scenarios that others considered?
  4. Did we underestimate the severity or likelihood?
  5. Was our analysis founded in science and based on data?
  6. Did we consider relevant incidents from industry including near misses?
  7. Was our Process Safety Information (PSI) complete and up to date?
  8. Did all recent Management of Change (MOC) data get incorporated?

Risk Management is Serious Business 

What is the impact of a single missed scenario? Well, if it is the one that occurs, then the impact is significant. In the case of the incident at BP Amoco Polymers in Augusta, GA, on March 13, 2001, where 3 people were killed in a major explosion. One of the key findings from the incidents investigation report was:

Process hazard analyses were inadequate. For example:

    • Credible scenarios for overfilling or pressurizing the polymer catch tank were not recognized.
    • The consequences of the extruder failing to start or shutting down during routine operation were not considered.
    • Reactivity and decomposition hazards were treated inadequately or not at all.”

If those scenarios had been considered, would those 3 workers have made it home safely that day? There’s no way to know for sure but there is a strong chance this could have been a different outcome.

Risk Alive Analytics - Blog - Find your missing risks

 

Sources:

https://www.csb.gov/bp-amoco-thermal-decomposition-incident/