Hazard Identification


What is a ‘Hazard’?

Australian/New Zealand Standard 4360:2004 defines a hazard as a source of harm.  Further expanded, a hazard may be any activity, procedure, plant, process, substance, situation or other circumstance that has the potential to cause harm.

The adequate identification of hazards is a fundamental step in any risk management process as an unidentified hazard cannot be controlled.  Therefore, hazard identification is a critical activity.

Appropriate hazard identification techniques should be selected from the large range available considering the following aspects:

  • The nature and complexity of the activity under review
  • The types of risks present
  • Organisational context
  • Purpose of the risk study.

The technique chosen should:

  • Be systematic and well structured
  • Promote creativity and thinking ‘outside the box’
  • Be appropriate to the facility and people involved
  • Extract the maximum amount of useful information for the types of hazards present to facilitate adequate assessment of the risk of those hazards (in the following risk assessment stage)
  • Involve a level of effort proportional to the seriousness of the potential hazards present.

For more complex and facility wide risk assessments such as in Major Hazard Facilities, a range of techniques may be required to ensure that all factors are properly considered.  These can range from simple open brainstorming type methods through to rigorous and structured methods such as HAZOP and fault tree analysis.  The chosen methods will also be heavily influenced by the stage of the facility life-cycle.  For example, very early in a project life (prior to detailed engineering), it is unlikely that there will be sufficient information to undertake detailed techniques such as HAZOP.  Once the design phase is mostly complete HAZOP and other detailed methods allow operational concerns with the design to be identified and treated prior to construction.  During construction, commissioning and decommissioning phases, the focus is usually on the specific procedures used so that procedural HAZOP or task analysis may be of benefit.  For a mature facility in routine operation phase, factors such as operating experience, incident history and change management will influence the hazard identification approaches.

Hazard identification is most effective in a small team workshop environment.  Team selection is therefore critical and it is important to have the right balance of depth of technical knowledge with breadth of operating knowledge.  A facilitator who is knowledgeable in the general risk management process and adept at handling team dynamics is essential.  An external facilitator who is able to ’challenge the norm’ and bring fresh industry knowledge can be invaluable.

R4Risk can assist you to scope your complete risk assessment process and ensure the selection of the most appropriate tools and techniques for the hazard identification stage.   R4Risk brings extensive experience in applying hazard identification techniques in complex situations such as in Major Hazard Facilities.  As well as being risk management experts, R4Risk facilitators have broad industry knowledge and experience to ensure you extract maximum value from your workshop.


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