You must have come across the term HAZOP very often lately, as it has been in the news more often. HAZOP is an acronym which is short for Hazard and Operability study and it was first introduced many decades ago by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) of UK. ICI no longer exists today as ICI (various parts have been taken over by companies such as Huntsman and AkzoNobel), but the HAZOP analysis and study technique that they pioneered, continues to grow in importance.
HAZOP is a risk assessment technique, used mainly in the chemical process industries ,oil and gas, refining, petrochemical, heavy chemicals, pharmaceutical and power generation. It is growing in use in industries such as mining too. HAZOP is one technique out of a clutch of risk assessment techniques that engineers and other technical professionals use, such as FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis), LOPA (Layer of Protection Analysis), HAZID (Hazard Identification), What-If analysis and of course checklists. Amongst risk analysis techniques, we can consider HAZOP as more subjective than quantitative.
The HAZOP technique is structured in such as way as to identify the intentions and deviations of a particular operation, called as a node. For example a node may be a section of a plant that pumps liquid from a storage tank to a reactor some distance away. Then in this node, the original intention is identified (transporting liquid from the storage tank to the reactor) and then all possible deviations are analyzed in detail. Some of these deviations may result in accidents (for example if there is a reverse flow of liquid from the reactor to the tank). One can use standard HAZOP templates to carry out the HAZOP study or use documenting software that does the same. But a word of caution- the software is used only for documenting the findings systematically only. If used by a novice or an incompetent person, the best software in the world may end up as a bad HAZOP!
If an unskilled or untrained person carries out a HAZOP (using the best software or no software), the chances of doing a bad HAZOP increase manifold. Doing a bad HAZOP is worse than doing no HAZOP at all because a bad HAZOP lulls people into believing that their study is complete (and the recommendations are implemented and the plant is safe and everybody lived happily ever after) when actually the opposite is true.
Hence it is very important that only trained and qualified people should carry out HAZOP studies.
Lastly though HAZOP is well known as a risk assessment technique, it is also useful from an operability point of view. Thus it will identify potential operational problems too, such as the response time of a field operator to a process upset, manual valves in hard to access places and so on.
For a very cost effective “learn at your own pace” HAZOP training course, you can take a look here. Those who qualify in the online test also get a certificate of competency. This is essential to demonstrate to potential clients or your boss that you are competent in carrying out a HAZOP.