Understanding Major Accident Hazards

Hazard Identification - What can go wrong ?

The identification of what can go wrong is an important stage of the risk assessment process.  Accidents can only be prevented by anticipating how they can occur.  Every industry operation using power, machinery, chemicals etc is hazardous, with work-place accidents like tripping, falling, electrical shocks, etc being commonplace events.  The types of hazards that we are principally concerned with here, however, are MAJOR HAZARDS, i.e. accident events that could affect a significant proportion of the workforce and also affect members of the general public outside the plant site.

Hazard identification involves the rigorous consideration of all situations in which the potential for harm may exist, followed by a disciplined analysis of the combination or sequences of events, which could transform this potential into an accident.  Normally consideration must be given to the following aspects for hazard identification relating to major hazards:

  • Determining whether a given operation or activity has the potential to give rise to a major hazard situation.
  • Determining the range of major hazard events which the operation or activity could present. This is typically performed using either:
    • Comparative Methods: these draw mainly on knowledge gained from experience. Checklists and hazard indices are comparative methods.
    • Analytical Methods: these are structured ways for stimulating a group of people to apply foresight in conjunction with their knowledge to the tasks of identifying hazardous scenarios by raising “What If?” type questions.


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