Understanding HAZOP Analysis: Techniques and Best Practices

What is HAZOP Analysis and Why Implement It?

For those involved in the industrial sector, particularly in areas such as risk prevention, maintenance, or human resources, HAZOP analysis should not be a novelty. However, while it is a fundamental practice in certain scenarios, there is not always enough knowledge about it.

As explained below, in certain types of industries, it is practically an obligation; however, it is indeed a recommended assessment for all processes in this field. So, what is HAZOP analysis, how should it be implemented in a company, and what are the advantages of its implementation?

What is HAZOP Analysis?

The HAZOP analysis methodology derives from the abbreviation Hazard and Operability, known in Spain as Functional Operability Analysis (AFO). This technique, developed in 1963 by the American company ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries), is based on identifying potential risks in industrial installations and systems.

Its range of application is extensive, but it is most relevant in industries with high levels of hazard. In any case, HAZOP analysis serves to identify risk sources, potential consequences, the severity of their impact, existing safety methods to mitigate them, and possible actions in case of failure.

Where and When is HAZOP Analysis Applied?

As previously mentioned, this evaluation methodology is applicable in any context within the industrial sector, but there are specific fields where its development is essential for safety.

Analyzing processes, operations, installations, human interaction, and external factors is more relevant in the following areas:

Nuclear Plants

Nuclear plants are the most hazardous environments where HAZOP analysis is implemented. In this case, the identification of risks is crucial, and specific classification systems such as Safety Integrity Level (SIL) or Performance Level (PL) are used to determine the level of danger in an installation or process.

Pharmaceutical Sector

Although not as dangerous as the nuclear sector, the pharmaceutical industry also requires specific evaluation systems to ensure process safety. This analysis method is widely used and extended in the sector, providing excellent risk prediction.

Chemical Industry

A similar situation occurs in chemical installations and processes unrelated to the healthcare sector. In this case, the risk level may even be higher, so HAZOP analysis must be implemented to determine the hazards of installations and systems and to develop improvements accordingly.

Oil and Gas Platforms and Facilities

Due to their toxic and flammable nature, industries working with fossil fuels require special attention to safety. Any study conducted in these circumstances would be insufficient to guarantee complete and absolute protection, making it necessary to implement stricter analysis methodologies, such as HAZOP.

How is HAZOP Analysis Applied?

One of the key characteristics of this technique is that it is perfectly structured and standardized, making it applicable in various areas of operation following a similar pattern. In this regard, it starts from the general and progressively delves into more specific risk factors, doing so as follows:

Determining the Areas of Application

Where within an organization, installations, or processes do you want to conduct a risk assessment? This is how HAZOP analysis begins, by determining and defining the scope within which potential hazards will be studied.

Defining the Segments to Analyze

Within these primary areas, the object of study can be divided into segments, subsystems, or subsections (referred to as nodes in the safety field). This classification allows for a much deeper analysis, focusing on very specific points of the installation, which may have entirely different technical characteristics.

Establishing the Variables to Evaluate

At this stage of the analysis, the parameters and variables to be assessed in each of the nodes of the system or process under study are defined. Depending on the technical characteristics of each element, aspects such as temperature, flow rate, pressure, among many others, and their respective levels may be considered.

Conducting the Study

Once the research area is defined, the nodes to be analyzed are delimited, and the variables to be met in each case are determined, it is time to conduct the HAZOP analysis. At this point, hypothetical deviations that could cause safety problems are evaluated, with all information being meticulously recorded.

Reporting Results

The results report is a crucial moment in HAZOP analysis, as it must meticulously document all the information gathered up to this point. Some elements that must not be missing from the document include current situation results, data collection techniques used, a detailed analysis of the results, and recommended measures to be taken in each case.

Understanding the HAZOP Analysis Methodology

In addition to the strategy detailed above, it is essential to highlight that this evaluation methodology is based on dividing systems as many times as necessary to analyze them in detail.

On a different note, a fundamental consideration in the HAZOP analysis technique lies in the hypothetical causes of safety problems, which are divided into three possibilities: human errors, system failures, or external events, and attention is exclusively focused on them.

Advantages of Implementing HAZOP Analysis in an Organization

To emphasize the importance of HAZOP implementation in the industrial sector, it is sufficient to pay attention to some of its primary advantages. When properly executed, this analysis can be crucial for various departments of an organization for the following reasons:

  • Optimization of safety in systems, processes, and installations, the most evident benefit.
  • Cost savings associated with possible incidents or breakdowns due to technical failures.
  • Identification of design and development errors, as well as new improvement opportunities.
  • Anticipation of potential safety issues.
  • Response to all types of audits, whether internal, external, official, or unofficial, to increase confidence among all parties associated with the organization, including employees, customers, suppliers, and more.

Positive Engineering: Experts in HAZOP Development

Our experience in various safety assessments, with HAZOP analysis as one of our primary tools, has allowed us to be at the forefront of safety engineering. At Positive Engineering, we develop customized plans for each company and sector, ensuring that the results are unique and exclusive to each client.