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PT Notes

PHA Practices to Avoid: Improper Use of Checklists

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.

This PT Note is the second in a series to help you ensure your PHA studies follow best practices. Poorly conducted studies expose companies to regulatory and legal liabilities that can cost millions of dollars.

Process hazard analysis (PHA) is intended to be a brainstorming exercise. The use of detailed checklists during studies can become a substitute for the creative thinking and analysis that are essential characteristics of a good PHA study. Completion of detailed checklists consumes significant amounts of time and can become repetitive which interferes with the brainstorming needed for PHA sessions.

Detailed checklists of technical issues have an important role to play in process safety, for example in preparing for PHA studies when collecting needed information and identifying external events specific to a process. They are also important in addressing special topics such as human factors, facility siting, inherent safety, and change management for a process. However, such detailed checklists should be utilized separately from PHA brainstorming sessions to avoid adversely impacting either the PHA studies or the analysis of the special topics. It is unwise to shoehorn them into global nodes or global systems. The analysis of special topics may require a different team of people than those typically involved in PHA studies and insufficient time may be spent on completing checklists for special topics when they are addressed as part of a PHA study due to pressures to complete studies quickly.

Checklists can be used judiciously in PHA. For example, in HAZOP studies, it is standard practice to use a checklist of common process parameters to reference when deciding which deviations from design intent to address. Similarly, checklists of appropriate questions are referenced in What-If Checklist studies.

Also, customized checklists are often prepared to facilitate data entry in PHA worksheets, for example, lists of initiating events, consequences, and safeguards. Such checklists help to ensure completeness and also speed up data entry.

However, checklists used during PHA studies should be up-to-date, kept short, and customized for the application. They should be used judiciously to bring out issues that might apply to the study and supplement team brainstorming.

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