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PT Notes

PHA Team Member Roles That May Be Overlooked

PT Notes is a series of topical technical notes on process safety provided periodically by Primatech for your benefit. Please feel free to provide feedback.

The composition of process hazard analysis (PHA) study teams is critical to the successful performance of studies. Typical teams are composed of people who together can provide the information needed to define the design intent for operating the process. However, as the practice of PHA has evolved, the value and importance of participation by personnel with other roles has emerged.

A Quality Assurance (QA) Manager can take responsibility for alerting the facilitator to deviations from the purpose, scope, and objectives of the study and performance requirements established for the study so that corrective action can be taken at the time they occur. Also, the QA Manager is charged with being alert to omissions by the study team.

PHA studies rely on subjective judgment. Consequently, a Devil’s Advocate can be designated to challenge and debate the views of team members in order to help determine their validity. The Devil’s Advocate should encourage teams to look not just for evidence to confirm expressed views but also evidence to the contrary and also focus attention on differences rather than similarities between situations in order to reach more objective decisions.

PHA teams should not consist entirely of people who know the process well. Groupthink can be a problem. It can be addressed by the participation of an Independent Senior Engineer who does not have any prior experience with the process being studied. Such a person can challenge assumptions made by other team members and contribute knowledge that may not be possessed by them.

Both operations and maintenance personnel should participate in PHA studies. Deviations from maintenance intent are as important as deviations from operations intent. Both can result in hazard scenarios that may be missed without the knowledge provided by operations and maintenance personnel. Furthermore, a case can be made for having more than one person on the team from the same discipline to reflect different types of work, levels of experience, ways of performing jobs, attitudes, and behaviors which can have a major impact on the results of a PHA study. Sufficient people should be present during a study to provide complete and accurate information about the process under all conditions it experiences.

PHA studies benefit significantly from the contributions of a Control Systems Engineer who has detailed knowledge of the process instrumentation, controls, alarms and interlocks. The control scheme is a critical aspect of design intent and such knowledge is essential for the identification of deviations from control intent.

Chemical processes may pose hazards involving reactive chemicals. Identification of reactivity hazard scenarios requires that one or more team members have expertise in chemistry, a knowledge of the chemical processes being studied, and an understanding of chemical reactivity hazards. The challenge is greater than for the other major hazards of toxicity, flammability, and explosivity because chemical reactivity hazards are not as well recognized or understood, hazard scenarios involving them are more involved and harder to identify, and some PHA methods do not address them very well.

Specialty Team Members with technical expertise beyond that of regular team members may be needed when some topics are addressed, certain issues arise, or a particular part of the process is examined, for example, an electrical engineer, structural engineer, fire protection engineer, human factors specialist, or emergency response planner.

The composition of PHA study teams is critical to the successful performance of studies. There is little value in compromising team composition for PHA studies when so much depends on their results.

This topic is discussed in greater detail in the article:

PHA Team Member Roles That May Be Overlooked, Loss Prevention Bulletin, Issue 247, February 2016.

To comment on this PT Note, click here.

For information on Primatech’s PHA consulting and facilitation services, click here.

For information on certification of personnel in PHA click here.

For information on a related software tool click here.

Click on the links below for information on related training courses:

Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) for Team Leaders

Advanced Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) for Team Leaders

Managing Psychological and Human Aspects of PHA Facilitation

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