A Hazard and Operability Study (HAZOP) is a systematic investigation of a present or planned process or operation. It was originally designed to assess chemical plants and the procedure and processes used in them but is now applied more widely.

The goal of a HAZOP study is to identify and evluate any problems within a plant or work environment that could pose a risk to the employees or equipment. It also looks at processes that might prevent the facility from running as efficiently as it should.

In this article, we'll go over what a HAZOP study involves and give some tips and advice for those who will be involved in conducting one.

How Does HAZOP Work?

HAZOP studies are carried out by a multi-disciplinary team, usually composed of four or five members though larger studies can require up to 20 members on the HAZOP team. The team holds a series of meetings during which they conduct a qualitative assessment of the plant's design. The team’s focuses is on specific points of the design, which hare explored one by one. What the team is looking for is deviations in the process parameters.

Once the team has identified a number of deviates, each is considered as a potential cause or effect of operational problems or hazards.

HAZOP effectiveness is largely determined by:

  • The parameters and exact description of the study
  • The skills and experience of the team members
  • The team’s ability to work well together
  • Meaningful questions posed by the HAZOP team
  • Completeness and accuracy of the study
  • The team's ability to use the outlined approach
  • The team's ability to identify and concentrate on serious hazards and not get sidetracked by sheer breadth of the study

(Learn more in Hazard and Operability Studies: The Basics.)

Why Is HAZOP Important for Safety Professionals?

In addition to helping the plant run smoothly, Hazard and Operability studies also allow safety professionals to identify and then either control or elminate hazards.

HAZOP is ideal for large and complex systems. Breaking these down into their component parts and assessing each in turn gives safety professionals a more fine-grained look at potential hazards that may otherwise be overlooked.

Pros of Conducting a HAZOP Study

  • An efficient, knowledgeable HAZOP team can save the company more money than the expense of the condcuting the study
  • HAZOP studies identify hazards and can thus save lives and decrease employee injuries
  • HAZOP teams provide a multi-disciplinary look at various processes

Cons of Conducting a HAZOP Study

  • HAZOP studies are very time consuming
  • HAZOP teams take a very focused approach to each element of a process and may miss some of the hazards that are more evident from taking a bigger picture perspective
  • A team that is not led by a competent facilitator and composed of knowledgable, experienced members may not investigate the processes thoroughly enough or may fail to identify some of the potential hazards

Hazard and Operability Study Tips

HAZOP studies can be very long and tedious. If you're conducting one, the following tips may make it more efficient and effective.

  1. Select a HAZOP team that has the necessary skills.
    1. Do they all understand the design, operation or procedure that is being studied?
  2. Clarify the study's focus.
    1. Are you reviewing a concept, procedure, operation, or design?
  3. What are the parameters of the study and is the entire team clear on this?
  4. Prepare an information package well before the study begins.
  5. Establish (in consultation with the entire HAZOP team) what software may be needed to assist the study.
  6. The facilitator should ensure that each team member makes contributions related to their area of expertise.
  7. Since HAZOP studies can be mentally taxing on those involved, the team should schedule regular breaks to refocus.
  8. The HAZOP team's meetings should be meticulously recorded and meeting minutes should be kept for future reference.

Conclusion

A Hazard and Operability study is a great way to break down complex processes and consider all the ways they could go wrong. It can allow you to plan for the worst and prepare for the unexpected, but it's only the first step. Once your HAZOP study has identified potential risks, those risks need to be addressed and corrected.