HAZOP is a very well established technique for identifying and evaluating hazards associated with process plant and equipment. As anyone who has ever participated in one will tell you, it is a very structured and rigorous methodology to analyse the process plant by splitting it down into a number of ‘nodes’ which are marked up on a set of Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs), and then using a series of guidewords and deviations to identify causes and consequences of hazards on a process plant.
Traditionally, HAZOP study sessions involve a small team, with collective knowledge across various aspects of the plant, equipment and process design and operations, congregating around a large set of P&IDs and chaired by an experienced HAZOP leader. The output is captured during the session, normally by a dedicated HAZOP scribe, on a suitable software application; this could be excel or word, for example, but ENGIE Fabricom uses a proprietary software called PHA-Pro. This is designed not only to capture the output, but to be able to cross-reference similar deviations and actions and recommendations, and generally better manage the data and output.
The quality of the HAZOP is very much dependent on the contribution from all of the team and the skill and experience of the HAZOP leader in ensuring everyone is contributing within their own area of expertise or experience. There is a fine balance between the right level of effective dialogue and discussion about potential causes, consequences and mitigations, and also keeping the study moving at a pace.
HAZOP leadership is a skill in its own right; getting the best out of the team, allowing and encouraging everyone to contribute, challenging and asking the right sort of questions to ensure each point has been fully explored, and continually gauging the energy level in the room. Sessions can go on for a number of days, or even weeks on a large study, so having the right environment, taking regular breaks, and keeping everyone fresh is important.
ENGIE Fabricom has a number of highly experienced HAZOP leaders, and this is a big part of our consultancy offering. We run HAZOP’s both as an integral part of projects which we are designing, and also stand-alone HAZOP’s on client projects, i.e. where we are just providing the HAZOP facilitation.
Lockdown has provided some challenges with running such sessions. By their very nature, they are collaborative and so we have had to adapt our process to run ‘remote’ HAZOP’s via Teams and Skype with everyone joining from their own homes or offices. Preparation has always been the key to a good HAZOP, and our approach is to develop a ‘Terms of Reference’ document for each HAZOP which describes the methodology, how it will be applied, the boundaries, attendees and their discipline and experience, and upfront process design information and documentation. This allows everyone to come into the first session fully armed with the right level of background information.
In essence, this part of the approach has not changed, but the main difference is ensuring that everyone has a full set of documentation which they can reference from their own machine. There is no longer a large print set of P&IDs in the middle of the table for everyone to look at, point at, and talk around; this all now needs to be done virtually.
Homeworking has given us all an opportunity to fully embrace some of the collaboration tools which are available, and I think we have generally been very impressed with the ability to hold video calls, screen shares, etc. HAZOP, in lock-down, has made great use of these and we have found that it is not just possible to run a HAZOP on the likes of Teams, but with good Leadership it can still be effective in terms of good use of people’s time, and most importantly in identifying, evaluating and mitigating process safety risks.
When we return to a more normal business environment it is likely that HAZOP meetings will revert back to predominantly face to face meetings, but I think with more flexibility of individuals or sub-teams being able to join remotely, particularly where we are geographically distanced. We have experienced what is possible in running a remote HAZOP, and have been successful over the last few months, whilst in lock-down, in achieving this and delivering the same high-quality output.
In conclusion: is it as good as the real thing? Almost, but not quite – you have to provide your own biscuits!
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