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5 Facets of an Efficient Process Hazard Analysis (PHA)

by Carolyn Bott and the scribe team

PHA Team works around a tablet

A Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) will prove to be the cornerstone of Process Safety Management (PSM) at any operating facility with the correct tools and the right leaders. Although there are many variables concerning PHAs, the process can be simplified and impactful results can be attained. In this blog, we delve into the five essential components that constitute an efficient and effective PHA.

  1. Clear and well-defined scope that is relevant to the system being analyzed

  2. Systematic and structured approach

  3. Multidisciplinary team of subject matter experts who can identify and evaluate potential hazards from different perspectives

  4. Use of appropriate techniques and tools to evaluate and prioritize risks

  5. Periodic reviews and updates.


PHA Scope

A well-defined scope for a PHA is critical to identify potential safety and environmental hazards in a facility. Having a clear and defined scope:

  • Sets the boundaries of the analysis -This assures all necessary elements are included and relevant risks are identified and assessed

  • Enables the PHA team to focus on specific areas of concern and analyze them in detail - This reduces the potential for error and minimizes both the time and resources needed

  • Ensures that all stakeholders are aware of the objectives and outcomes of the PHA

Standard for Approaching PHAs

Different companies may have their own specific PHA standards, specific to their operations and the risks involved. These standards typically outline essential measures to perform a thorough PHA, including:

  • Qualifications and training required for team members

  • Selection of appropriate methodologies

  • Level of detail required in the analysis

  • Documentation requirements for the study

  • Frequency of review

  • Ongoing monitoring requirements ensuring the safety and efficiency of operating processes

Adherence to these standards is typically required by regulatory bodies and industry best practices. A standard can ensure all relevant factors are considered and a thorough analysis is conducted. Following a standard also facilitates communication and collaboration among stakeholders, enhances consistent decision-making across sites, and promotes continuous improvement in a site’s process safety.


PHA Team

An effective PHA team is composed of individuals with diverse expertise, including engineers, operators, maintenance personnel, and safety professionals. The team:

  • Shall have expertise in engineering and process operations

  • Shall include at least one employee who has experience and knowledge specific to the process being evaluated

  • One member of the team must be knowledgeable in the specific process hazard analysis methodology being used

  • Must be able to work collaboratively to identify hazards, evaluate risks, and develop appropriate risk management strategies

Effective communication and teamwork are vital for a successful and efficient PHA.

The proficiency of the PHA leader or facilitator has a substantial impact on the team and the outcome of the PHA. A facilitator leans on their own risk management experience and is responsible for guiding the team through the identification and evaluation of all credible process hazards. The leader continuously assesses the team’s dynamic and intervenes when necessary to ensure the group remains on task to complete the PHA efficiently with impactful results.


A company can utilize in house experts or hire a third party to shepherd their PHA needs– Process Safety Consulting


Techniques and Tools

Methodologies

The methodology selected must be appropriate to the complexity of the process and site standards. One or more of the following methods, as appropriate, may be used to determine and evaluate the hazards of the process being analyzed:

  • What-if

  • Checklist

  • What-if Checklist

  • Hazard and operability study (HAZOP)

  • Failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA)

  • Fault tree analysis

  • An appropriate equivalent methodology

For more info on choosing a risk assessment methodology, check out our webinar that examines the advantages and limitations of various methodologies: Choosing a Risk Assessment Methodology


Tools

Computer-based systems are used to document PHA discussions in an organized manner and provide consistency throughout the analysis. Examples of PHA documenting software include:

  • Sphera® PHA-Pro®

  • PrimaTech PHAWORKS RA®

  • aeShield® aeFacilitator®

Using appropriate software eases the execution of risk studies.


Review Cycle

All PHAs must be updated and revalidated every five years. The periodic review should reflect any changes in the process or surrounding environment that may impact safety.

An alternate approach to managing PHA updates is to incorporate them into the study file as changes occur. This method is often called an Evergreen PHA or Continuous PHA Revalidation.


An efficient and effective PHA can enhance the safety of processes, reduce the risk of accidents and incidents, improve compliance with regulations and standards, and ultimately support the organization's goals and objectives. Ensuring these five (5) components are in place can help companies have an efficient PHA to identify and mitigate risks before they become safety incidents.

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