Understanding Major Accident Hazards

Scenario Definition – How could it develop?

A conceptual framework for scenario definition can be characterised as a Hazard-Vector-Target or Source-Pathway-Receptor approach as it is more commonly characterised when discussing environmental hazards. Without all three of the elements being present, no harm occurs.

Effective scenario definition depends on knowledge and experience of the hazard and relies on systematic methods to ensure that this knowledge and experience is applied to identifying the routes by which each of these major hazard events could be realised, i.e. identify potential accident scenarios.  Such accident scenarios include combinations or sequences of events, with possible escalation from an initiating minor accident event into a major hazard event.

Typically, analytical methods are used to define scenarios. 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.  Examples of this type of methodology are:

  • Hazard and Operability Studies (HAZOP).
  • Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA).
  • Fault tree, event tree and Bow-Ties.


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