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Minimizing Human Error in PHA Documentation

Written by Risk Alive

February 27, 2020

Authors: Carol Li, Process Safety analytics EIT, Risk Alive Analytics
Ron Mukherjee, Project Manager, Risk Alive Analytics

In Process Safety, the industry is well aware that humans can make errors. The industry is also aware that the more stressed and fatigued humans are, the more frequent their errors will be. Often, these symptoms impact personnel involved in PHA sessions, which means the documentation and quality of a PHA can be compromised. Many times Project or plant driven PHAs have high expectations of scope completeness with minimal allowance on time, leading to the feeling of a compressed PHA session. This pressure of limited time can lead to these normal human errors, which can unfortunately lead to critical documentation issues.

Errors in PHA documentation can range from:

Small impacts such as:

  • Spelling typos
  • Grammar/punctuation errors
  • Empty rows which may require document clean up
  • Unintentionally leaving high risk scenarios without follow up recommendations, thus leaving an unacceptable risk exposure at site.
  • Mismatches between the values of safeguards applied for risk reduction versus the likelihood change recorded
  • Listing a unique safeguard multiple times in a scenario, artificially reducing the risk

To larger impacts such as:

Companies with a mature PHA process often have internal cycles of Quality Assurance (QA) to catch these types of issues and minimize any large impact errors. Unfortunately, these processes are often quite manual and rely on spot checks as people are not usually allocated adequate time to check every detail and row of data in a PHA. Even if a person was allotted reasonable time to review a PHA in its entirety, it is very unlikely they will catch all the errors. If a PHA cannot be reviewed in its entirety after its completion, there will always be a chance that something critical can be missed.

Thankfully, as many of these QA items have a repeatable logic-based process when checking, many parts of this PHA QA cycle can be automated. This study shows the application of an automated PHA QA tooling process and real case examples of the time savings and high impactful items that can be flagged. The ideal goal of this process is to bring high impactful PHA documentation errors to zero, thereby properly capturing the teams intent during the PHA session and ensuring the highest possible quality of this legal, risk document.

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